I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.
At the time, I said everybody should climb off Lackey’s back and give him a chance, while healthy, to be the pitcher the Red Sox thought they were getting when he was signed. I felt like if this guy were healthy that he would once again find his way back to being a staff leader and bulldog on the mound.
After all, he pitched with a torn elbow ligament that eventually led to Tommy John surgery last season. Now he’s healthy for the first time in a Red Sox uniform and the results speak for themselves.
His won-loss record (6-5) is not great but its the other numbers that really matter: 2.81 ERA (top 10 in AL), 27 earned runs, WHIP around 1.20 with 79 Ks and only 17 walks in 86.1 innings of work.
Those numbers are what you want and need from a veteran, experienced pitcher if you want to be a playoff contender.
With Clay Buchholz injured and Jon Lester inconsistent, Lackey has emerged as the de facto ace of the Red Sox staff. He’s familiar with the role. He did a fine job as a number one type starter while with the Angels and he’s proving he can once again be a horse.
It’s amazing how much good performance can wipe the slate clean. No longer do you hear how Lackey is a negative clubhouse influence on the young guys or how he shows up his teammates while on the mound.
Having a sub 3.00 ERA, pitching deep into games and cranking up the fastball into the high 90’s with more regularity will do that for you.
Now I have no idea if Lackey can keep up his ace-like performance all season but he may not have to.
Buchholz is expected back soon and you have to think Lester hasn’t suddenly lost it so if Lackey can give the team what it needs now he can pass the baton later, if need be.
But that is not Lackey’s personality if you’ve followed his pre-Sox career. He wants to be THE GUY. He wants the ball in tough spots.
Before this year he just wasn’t capable of being that guy while in a Sox uniform. He didn’t have his stuff.
But now he’s got his arsenal back and he has turned into the most pleasant surprise on the Red Sox pitching staff on a team that has done almost everything right.
I’m extremely happy for Lackey and what he’s done so far this season. In a sea of negativity, I have been one of the few that has supported him from day one. I’m glad he’s recaptured his former self on the mound. It means he’s back to helping his team win.
If the Red Sox go on to win the AL East and maybe more, John Lackey will be a big reason why. Just remember where you heard it first. For those that had little faith in him prior to the season? Don’t you feel just a tad bit foolish now?