John Lackey on salary structure for 2015: 'It's going to be different'

Rob Bradford
February 28, 2014 - 3:24 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Lackey has lived an anything-but-ordinary existence for the last few years, so what lies ahead doesn't figure to alter the pitcher'€™s approach. What Lackey has done since coming back from Tommy John surgery is a feat that perhaps no Boston professional athlete has managed to this extent: Dug himself out from the depths of public perception to become a revered member of a world championship team. Example: On the parade route following the Red Sox' World Series win, one sign stood out, saying, "From Red Sox Nation to John Lackey -- We'€™re sorry!" As he heads into 2014, all is well for Lackey. The 35-year-old is coming off a season in which he made 29 starts, compiling a 3.52 ERA. And then there was the momentum garnered from a postseason in which he compiled three wins while allowing eight runs over 26 innings. "I just feel healthy, more than anything," he said. "There was more confidence not having to worry about how I felt physically. I just had to worry about executing pitches. "For the most part last year I felt good. It was something [where] I didn't have to deal with a whole lot of extra treatment and get into a normal routine and perform. I don't know if you ever figure everything out, totally. You're always still learning. But I feel I'm in a good place physically and when I'm healthy I feel like I know how to pitch." But there is yet another unique scenario waiting around the corner for Lackey. The Sox starter is slated to make the major league minimum (a team option the Sox will surely pick up) due to a clause originally put in Lackey'€™s five-year, $82.5 million deal. The salary drop is precipitated due to Lackey'€™s Tommy John surgery on his right elbow following the 2011 campaign. The contract stated, that in lieu of insurance, the team would get the option of the extra year at the discounted rate if the pitcher missed a full year due to an elbow injury, a clause inserted based on concerns of the Sox medical staff at the time of Lackey's physical. For reference sake, the big league minimum for 2014 is $500,000. Lackey is making $15.25 million for the 2014 season. "It's different," he said of the clause. "There will be some things I have to think about, for sure. It is what it is right now. I haven't even thought about it. I'm worried about this year. "But it's different, for sure. It's going to be different." As of now, there have been no negotiations regarding altering the structure for 2015. From the team perspective, it is one of the elements that is offering optimism for a manageable starting rotation. Even if Jon Lester signs a deal paying him upwards of $20 million a season, with the contract statuses of Lackey, Felix Doubront (who will be a first-time arbitration-eligible pitcher after the 2014 season), Clay Buchholz (never making more than $13.5 million through '€™17) and a host of young pitchers, the commitment for the Red Sox starters shouldn't eclipse $50 million. To put that in perspective, the Dodgers will be committing more than $90 million to their starters this season. Lackey doesn't appear concerned about the notion of playing on a reduced deal next year. While the pitcher might try to broach some sort of solution to expand on the major league minimum construct, he is also secure that things will work out. After watching the last few seasons, it'€™s a hypothesis that would be hard to argue. "I haven't even gotten to that point of thinking that far ahead. We'll play this year out and see what happens," Lackey said. "I'm not worried about the money. I've made plenty of that."