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Top pick Matt Barnes ‘thrilled’ to be taken by Red Sox

06.08.11 at 6:55 pm ET
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Right-hander Matt Barnes, the top overall pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 amateur draft, said that despite growing up as a Yankees fan, he’s thrilled to be a member of the Red Sox organization after being taken with the 19th overall pick in the draft. Barnes, who is in South Carolina preparing for the University of Connecticut’s Super Regional against the University of South Carolina, suggested that it is a bit odd watching a Red Sox-Yankees series and having an altered rooting interest, but that he was more than happy to change his allegiance.

“It’€™s definitely ironic, but as much as I’€™ve always been a Yankees fan, I’€™ve always respected the Red Sox,” said Barnes. “They have a great organization, they have a great team, they develop their players well. So I’€™m very excited for the opportunity to play for the Red Sox. I know that they’€™ll take care of me just fine.”

Barnes found out about the fact that the Red Sox took him during Monday’s regional game against Clemson for the right to advance. He had been aware of the Sox’ scouting interest in him — he’d seen GM Theo Epstein at his outings on a few occasions — but there hadn’t been direct contact between him and members of the organization in the weeks leading up to the draft, or even on the day of the draft. He had his cell phone close at hand prior to and even during the game against Clemson on Monday, and a couple of teammates who weren’t allowed into the dugout during the game would give him updates on the draft every half-inning .

“All in all, it was hectic, but it was a great day,” said Barnes. “I was very fortunate to be drafted by the Red Sox on Monday, and to top it off, to get the W, and now we’€™re here in South Carolina.”

Barnes came of age with a UConn program that has done the same while he has pitched there. In high school, he was able to live with a fastball that was in the upper-80s and touched 90 mph. In a baseball region where the level of competition wasn’t elite, that single pitch allowed him to dominate his competition, permitting him success on the baseball field even as he committed his winters to basketball rather than baseball conditioning. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, matt barnes,

Terry Francona on The Big Show: Ortiz ‘can handle himself’

06.08.11 at 3:49 pm ET
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As always when the Red Sox and Yankees play, there was a bit of controversy Tuesday night after Sox slugger David Ortiz flipped his bat following a home run in their 6-3 win. Red Sox manager Terry Francona was a guest on The Big Show on Wednesday and offered his take.

“I don’t think it matters. We’ve got [Tim Wakefield] going. He’ll handle it,” Franconca joked. “David’s a big boy. He can handle himself. I don’t know if there’s any difference in somebody hitting a home run and looking in their dugout and waving or something like that. David’s a big boy he can handle himself.”

As for the notion of baseball’s unwritten rules, Franconca dismissed those. “I don’t know about the unwritten rules. I think the people who are writing these rules aren’t in the game. I don’t know who’s writing them. I think there a lot of different books. Everybody’s got their own thoughts. I think David respects the game. I think he flipped his bat, I don’t know, he just flipped his bat. David’s a big boy. He can handle himself.”

To hear the whole interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Here’s a transcription of the rest of the interview.

Is the fact that Jon Lester is struggling but still earning victories a good sign?

I think it’s a great sign. Sometimes these things don’t even out. If he can get some wins when he doesn’t have his A game going, he’s going to get it together. We’ve all seen it. He’s healthy. He’s not being as consistent right now as he has been. When he dials it, we’ve all seen it, he keeps it. I think that bodes really well for us.

On nights when you don’t have your A game you’ve got to find a way to stay out there. Against the Yankees that’s hard because they make you work so hard and if you don’t execute your pitches you’ll drive that pitch count up in a hurry, as they did with Lester. But to his credit he stayed out there and he kept them off the board.

How as Ortiz’z ability to hit lefthanders affected the lineup this season?

It does a couple of things. One, it lets me answer a heck of a lot less questions. The second thing is last year we were vulnerable against left-handers. When David didn’t get hits or JD and that happened probably too many times we had a tough time. Now we’re not having to drop him in the order. We can hit him fifth. We can hit him behind [Kevin Youkilis] and he’s a big presence right in the middle, whether it’s against lefties or righties. We have become used to that over the years.

For whatever reason, I know a lot of people thought he was getting old and everyone was taking their shots at him. But he got himself in a position where he wasn’t able to show his bat speed. He was swinging at balls out of the zone. He was check-swinging. He was behind the fastball. He was ahead of the breaking ball. Now he’s shortening up with two strikes. he’s not striking out very much at all. He’s hitting the ball to left field and when they come in on him he turns it he hits a home run. It’s fun to watch. He’s been productive and he’s probably going to be more productive as the season wears on because it will get hot. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Big Show, bobby jenks, Clay Buchholz

Peter Gammons on M&M: ‘Distinctly possible’ Yankees may retaliate

06.08.11 at 1:58 pm ET
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MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons made his weekly appearance on the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Red Sox, who started a three-game series in New York with a 6-4 victory over the Yankees Tuesday night.

In that game, Jon Lester hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch, knocking the Yankees slugger from the game. Gamons was asked if he expected any payback Wednesday night.

“It will be very interesting to see if they do open this up a little bit and get into it,” he said. “It’s a good night with Burnett doing it, because he’s not worried about having people on base. And Tim Wakefield‘s not exactly going to go drill people. Maybe something like that will happen.”

Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Jon Lester gets the win but once again doesn’t look sharp. ‘€¦ What are they saying down there? Is he just going through a tough period right now, or is there any concern?

It’s a tough period in overthrowing. I think at times, he’s reaching back so much that he’s getting his delivery out of whack early on. When he rocks back, sometimes he rocks back so far he just gets out of that delivery. And also I also think at times, he’s become so cutter happy. Rather than thinking about being able to use all four of his pitches, I think he’s trying to become too much of a power guy and overthrows, then throws that cutter, cutter, cutter.

But the good thing is that he hasn’t been losing while he’s been in this period. I was thinking about this last night, watching him. He never gives in. And that may be part of his personality. He is so aggressive. And he also is so accountable. He beats himself up unbelievably. And I think that makes him press even further.

But if he doesn’t lose while not pitching very well, what’s he going to be when he goes on one of those 10-game streaks where he’s almost untouchable? So, I think the good news for the Red Sox is they survived Jon Lester not being their best pitcher.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon

Jerry Remy on D&C: ‘No way’ Jon Lester hit Mark Teixeira on purpose

06.08.11 at 10:32 am ET
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NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following the Sox’ 6-4 victory over the Yankees Tuesday night in New York. To hear the interview, go the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi criticized David Ortiz for flipping his bat after hitting a home run off rookie Hector Noesi in the fifth inning. Remy defended the designated hitter.

“The bat flip didn’t annoy me last night because [Ortiz] did it. He’s done that in the past. He’s done that quite a few times, and it’s almost become accepted in the game today,” Remy said. “I didn’t think very much of it, except that when he made contact he knew it was gone, so he just kind of gave it a little flip and that was it.”

Another reason for the Yankees to be upset is because Mark Teixeira had to leave the game after being hit by a Jon Lester pitch. He was one of two batters hit by the Sox lefty.

“Both those pitches were cut fastballs that certainly weren’t intentional,” Remy countered. “But it does hurt, obviously, when you get Teixeira out of the lineup early in the ballgame. So, we’ll have to see how it goes. We don’t know how New York took it. But if they’re taking that Lester was throwing at those guys intentionally, they’re wrong there, because that wasn’t the case. If they’re offended by the bat flip, that’s a different story.”

Added Remy: “If I was on the other side, I wouldn’t say that that [hit by pitch] was intentional. I’d be upset that we lost one of our best players, obviously. But there’s no way you can sit there and say Lester was trying to put Teixeira out of the game with a cut fastball that hits his knee.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: David Ortiz, Jerry Remy, Jon Lester, Mark Teixeira

Wednesday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Tim Wakefield vs. A.J. Burnett

06.08.11 at 9:00 am ET
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With American League East dominance on the line, two seasoned veterans will take the mound for the Red Sox and Yankees Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. in New York. Joe Girardi will look to A.J. Burnett to keep Boston’s offense in check, while Terry Francona will counter with Tim Wakefield to challenge the division leaders.

Wakefield (2-1, 4.40 ERA) was stellar in his first two starts of the season, both coming in late May. The 44-year-old was 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA as a starter this season, but the White Sox managed to solve the knuckleballer in Chicago on June 1. Wakefield surrendered four runs on seven hits through six innings; not terrible, but not good enough to get his team the win.

Wakefield has become all too familiar with the nemesis from New York, as the Yankees have seen him in 484 combined plate appearances. In fact, Derek Jeter has faced Wakefield 127 times — more than any other hitter in major league history. Alex Rodriguez is third on the all-time list with 103 plate appearances, and Jorge Posada is sixth with 93. Wakefield has held all three of those hitters under .280.

Jeter has hit a triple, three home runs and 11 RBI against the knuckleballer, while Posada has hit four homers and 15 RBI. Rodriguez leads the Yankees with seven longballs off Wakefield, but also has a team-high 21 strikeouts. Robinson Cano has had the most success against the knuckleballer, hitting .304 with four doubles, four homers and 12 RBI in 47 plate appearances.

Burnett (6-3, 3.86 ERA), has been as unpredictable as ever this season, pitching brilliantly one night and horribly the next. He won four of his first five starts this year, but his win-loss record has been mostly dependent on the Yankees offensive production. New York has scored over six runs a game in Burnett’s six wins, but only eight runs combined in his three losses.

The 12-year pro got the month of June off to a good start with a win over Oakland in his last outing. Burnett allowed just two runs and three hits in seven innings while striking out five and walking three. In the start before that, however, the right-hander had struggled with his command. In a loss on May 27 vs. the Mariners, he was pulled after issuing five walks in just five innings.

With 266 combined plate appearances against the Yankees starter, the Red Sox are well aware of how wild Burnett can be. Still, he has struck out 62 Boston batters against 28 walks. Dustin Pedroia has exercised the most patience against Burnett, drawing 10 walks in 40 career plate appearances to go along with two homers, four RBI, and an even .300 batting average.

David Ortiz is on the other end of the spectrum, striking out twelve times in 40 plate appearances. He leads the team in K’s vs. Burnett, but also leads the way in home runs (3), doubles (5) and RBI (9). While Pedroia and Ortiz have seen the right-hander 40 times each, Carl Crawford has the most experience against Burnett. In 59 plate appearances, Crawford has a team-high .315 batting average with a homer, three doubles and five RBI.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: a.j. burnett, Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, Yankees

Rounds 21-30: Red Sox make a second run at drafting Tino Martinez (sort of)

06.08.11 at 8:44 am ET
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In 1985, the Red Sox drafted first baseman Tino Martinez in the third round of the draft. They failed to sign him. He went on to have a terrific college career at the University of Tampa, after which the Mariners took him as a first rounder in 1988. He went on to hit 339 homers in more than 2,000 major league games.

More than 25 years later, the Sox couldn’t draft Tino Martinez in rounds 21-30 of the 2011 draft, but they could take a player who was a finalist for the Tino Martinez Award as the best player in Division 2.

21st round (No. 652): Austin Davidson, INF, Oxnard HS (California)

Davidson’s best asset is his arm and his defense. He has the ability to play third base, shortstop and second base. He is not known much for his bat and does not have much power. Davidson has committed to play at Pepperdine.

22nd round (No. 682): Joseph Holtmeyer, RHP, University of Nebraska-Omaha

Holtmeyer was a finalist for the Tino Martinez Award last year as the country’s best Division 2 player. Also, he won the NCAA Division 2 strikeout Award for having the most strikeouts in all of Division 2 with 152. He has a pretty big build as he stands at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. This past spring he had 94 strikeouts in 71 innings pitched. He had a 3.18 ERA in seven starts for Harwich in the Cape League last summer, striking out 37 and walking 13 in 39 2/3 innings.

23rd round (No. 712): Jarrett Brown, LHP, Salem HS (Georgia)

Brown is expected to play at the University of Georgia the next three years and fine tune his game. The left-hander currently has a fastball in the high 80’s, but has yet to develop a consistent off-speed pitch. He was went 5-4 with a 2.48 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings this past spring, though he only recently became a starter. His high school coach told the Rockdale Citizen that Brown is raw with big upside, suggesting that he has as much talent as former Sox prospect Brandon Moss did while playing in the district, but that his need to refine his skills suggests that unless he gets “life-changing money” he should go to college. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, alex massey, austin davidson, brenden shepherd

Red Sox go for pitching in rounds 16-20

06.08.11 at 7:34 am ET
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Pitching remained a major emphasis for the Red Sox in rounds 16-20 as four of the five picks were pitchers, three of them righties. They also drafted a first baseman. Two high schoolers, one junior college player and two college players were among the selections during these rounds.

16th round (No. 502): Daniel Gossett, RHP, James F Byrnes HS (South Carolina)

Gossett had an outstanding senior season as he led his team to the 4A State Championship series in South Carolina. It was there that he suffered his only losses on the season. Prior to that he was 5-0 with a 0.14 ERA and had 96 strikeouts in 49 innings. He has three solid pitches, a fastball that can reach 95 mph, a curveball and a changeup.

Gossett has signed with Clemson, but didn’t rule out turning professional. Being selected in the 16th round might affect his decision, though the right-hander simply sounded in awe of being drafted on Tuesday.

17th round (No. 532): Blake Forslund, RHP, Liberty University

Forslund went 1-2 with an 8.31 ERA over 21 1/3 innings in his first season with Liberty, a season in which he showed power stuff (a low- to mid-90s fastball) but struggled with consistency and a knee injury. He transferred from the University of Virginia and had to sit out the 2010 season. He struck out 22 and walked 15 in nine appearances. Four of his appearances were starts.

Forslund has played his summer ball with the Central Virginia Blue Sox of the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate Baseball League, for whom he was named pitcher of the year in 2009. He struck out more than two batters an inning in high school.

He’s the son of a former USFL player, Mike Forslund of the Washington Generals.

18th round (No. 562): Andrew Jones, RHP, Samford University

Jones was one of three Samford pitchers selected on Tuesday. Jones was Samford’s closer for during the 2011 season. He finished with 15 saves, which was a school record. He also had a 1.49 ERA and held opponents to a .184 batting average. He struck out 35 batters, and walked only six in 36 1/3 innings.

In his profile on the Samford website he lists his favorite athlete as former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

19th round (No. 592): Jeffrey Orvis, 1B, Freedom HS (Florida)

Orvis also goes by the name “Sikes.” Orvis is a left-handed hitter who shows pull power. His primary position is first base, but has seen some time at catcher. He is said to have very good hands. He is more known for his bat, however, than his defense. He is committed to attend Ole Miss.

20th round (No. 622): Zachary Good, LHP, Grayson County College

The tall (6-foot-3), lanky left-hander logged 64 1/3 innings for Grayson County College this past spring with a 5-4 record and 5.18 ERA. Good had 60 strikeouts and allowed 28 walks. Grayson made it to the JUNO World Series this season, and pitched in the final game of the year for Grayson. He pitched eight shutout innings and left with a 2-0 lead, but Grayson ended up by losing and being eliminated by a score of 3-2 to defending champion Iowa Western Community College.

Good had Tommy John surgery in high school, and has since returned to feature a low-90s fastball and curveball.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, andrew jones, blake forslund, Curt Schilling

Rounds 11-15: Nursing can wait as Sox make run at college arms

06.08.11 at 7:13 am ET
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This is often a stretch of the draft where the Red Sox grab college pitchers, many of whom end up filling out the roster of Short-Season Lowell of the New York-Penn League. Yet the team added an intriguing wrinkle to the mix this year, adding one high-upside, raw talent from a place not known as a baseball hotbed.

11th round (No. 352): Kevin Brahney, LHP, Chico State

Brahney was better than his 2-5 record for Chico State indicated, as he had a 3.58 ERA, 74 strikeouts (against 26 walks) and a .236 opponents’ batting average in 65 1/3 innings for Chico State. The senior is listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, and features a left-handers requisite quirks. He was born on 8/8/88, can’t stand spiders and refuses to step on the foul line or to be given the ball on the way to the mound, according to a Chico State bio.

He reportedly features a low-90s fastball that can top out at 94 mph, along with a curveball that has good late break. As a senior, he is virtually certain to be one of the first Sox signees this year.

12th round (No. 382): Deshorn Lake, RHP, Menchville HS (Va.)

Lake is a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands who moved to the Newport News area in Virginia as a high school junior. The Sox recently saw Lake throw as part of a showcase for players from the Virgin Islands. (The Sox have never drafted a player out of the Virgin Islands.) He moved to the continental US to further his baseball career, and ended up pitching for Team USA’s Under-16 club in 2009 (compiling a 5.40 ERA while striking out seven in five innings).He features a low-90s fastball that has been clocked as high as the mid-90s, along with a curve.

Lake is, unsurprisingly, raw given how little time he’s been competing in a structured high school environment. An East Carolina recruit, Lake’s coach was suggesting in the spring that he expected the right-hander to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft. He’s 17, but with a very athletic frame that is advanced for his age. He went 15-4 with a 2.06 ERA, 131 strikeouts and 61 walks over 98 1/3 innings.

Lake told the Daily Press that he’s seeking a bonus in line with a pick from the first three rounds.

“I’m hoping it’s the top three rounds and I get top-three round money,” Lake said. “That would be nice, especially coming from the Virgin Islands. If that happens and things work out well, I’d probably be able to play pro ball. If not, then I’ll go to school and try again in three years.”

13th round (No. 412): Matty Ott, RHP, Louisiana State University

The 6-foot-2 right-hander looked like a coming star as a freshman in 2009, when he struck out 69 and walked six as a teammate of Sox prospect Anthony Ranaudo on LSU’s national champion squad. Ott was the closer, setting an LSU record with 16 saves, mostly on the strength of a wipeout slider. But his performance moved backwards from that point, as he had a 6.38 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 21 walks in 42 1/3 innings as a sophomore. He threw just 27 2/3 innings this year, with improved strikeout-to-walk numbers (27:7), a 2.60 ERA and six saves, but nothing akin to what he did as a freshman.

Still, he was a Cape League All-Star last summer while forging a 0.44 ERA, striking out 19 and walking four in 20 1/3 innings last summer, and he looked sharp at times this year, with a swing-and-miss secondary offering to complement his high-80s to low-90s fastball.

14th round (No. 442): Mike McCarthy, RHP, Cal State-Bakersfield

In 17 games (16 starts), McCarthy had a 1.62 ERA, 116 strikeouts and 28 walks in 127 2/3 innings. Most notably, he had a complete-game victory over No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and UCLA that helped to put him onto the map.

As a 23-year-old redshirt senior, it would be difficult to imagine a pitcher with less negotiating leverage. McCarthy, listed at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, will hold off on a graduate education as a nurse practitioner in order to pursue a baseball career.

15th round (No. 472): Braden Kapteyn, 1B/RHP, University of Kentucky

Kapetyn has spent the last three years as a two-way player at Kentucky. As a junior, he hit .300/.388/.438/.826 with six homers while starting all 55 games as either a first baseman or designated hitter. He also pitched in 14 games, with terrific strikeout numbers (27 in 17 innings) albeit while allowing a run an inning. He was a Cape League All-Star while pitching for Harwich last summer, giving up just nine hits in 28 1/3 innings while going 3-1 with a 0.64 ERA and striking out 29 batters. He also had three hits in 17 at-bats (.176 average) in the summer league.

A couple years ago, the Sox drafted outfielder Alex Hassan out of Duke with the intention of having him develop as a pitcher only to decide while watching him that summer in the Cape that he had more potential as an outfielder, and he’s borne out that assessment thus far; he’s hitting .340 with a .949 OPS this year in Double-A Portland, and has hit .300 or better at every level of pro ball. Certainly, Kapetyn would be more than happy to enjoy similar success.

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, braden kapteyn, deshorn lake, kevin brahney

Closing Time: Red Sox jump on ineffective Freddy Garcia early and often

06.07.11 at 10:36 pm ET
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The phrase ‘€œrunning into a pitcher’€ usually applies to facing a hot pitcher at the wrong time. Well on Tuesday night, the Red Sox offense was able to run through Yankees starter Freddy Garcia en route to a 6-4 win over their rivals at Yankee Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury golfed a low breaking pitch into the sea of Bleacher Creatures in right field to start the scoring in the game’€™s first at-bat. From there, a Dustin Pedroia walk, Adrian Gonzalez triple and Kevin Youkilis sacrifice fly gave the Sox a 3-0 lead in their first four appearances at the dish. By the time Pedroia added another run on an RBI double in the next frame, the Red Sox had all the runs they would need for the night.

Garcia, who struggled mightily with all of his pitches, tossed just 1 2/3 innings, allowing the four earned runs on four hits and three walks.

As for Red Sox starter Jon Lester, Tuesday’€™s outing only represented what is becoming a trend for him this season. While staff ace Josh Beckett continues to be mired in the Land of No Decisions, Lester continues to rack up the wins as he improved his record to 8-2 . The southpaw allowed three earned runs on eight hits, one walk and two hit batters while striking out five over six complete innings.

As good as those stats look on paper, Lester had to work to achieve them. His only perfect inning was his last, and he worked out of situations with runners in scoring position in the first, fourth and fifth innings.

Jonathan Papelbon, who announced earlier in the day that he was appealing a three-game suspension, earned the 200th save of his career in the ninth inning.

With the win, the Red Sox move into a tie with the Yankees for first place in the American League East. It’€™s the team’€™s first share of the top spot in the division since last Monday.

Here’€™s what else went what right and wrong in the opening game of a three-game set in the Bronx.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

–Although Ellsbury has seen an increase in his power numbers this season, the speedy centerfielder’€™s blast was his first leadoff homer of the season and his first since Sept. 26, 2008 against the Yankees. Four of his 27 career homers have now come in his team’€™s first at-bat.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, freddy garcia

John Lackey: Elbow going to be ‘something I have to stay on top of’

06.07.11 at 9:16 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Two days after making his first start since returning from the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain, John Lackey was mildly optimistic.

“It’s been a more normal soreness this time than actual pain,” he said prior to the Red Sox‘ series opener against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

The starter finished his outing Sunday against the Athletics giving up three runs over 5 2/3 innings. It was deemed a step in the right direction, especially after Lackey had allowed 17 runs in his previous 10 2/3 innings. Yet the pitcher admits that he still lives with some trepidation.

“I know I have damage in there already, so you never know for sure. But every pitcher will find something. Some of us just got a little more than others,” said Lackey, who had elbow issues early in the 2009 season. It is a condition that led to a clause in his current deal which makes his option year at the major league minimum if significant time is missed due to the elbow ailment.

Asked if there was concern that the problem was going to be something more serious, Lackey said, “A little bit because you don’t want it to get too much worse than it already is. But the MRI was pretty close to what it was when I got here.”

It should be understood that virtually all major league pitchers live with some sort of wear and tear, much of which will show up negatively on examinations. The trick is, as Lackey has discovered, to manage it in order to prevent setbacks that might derail a career.

“It’s going to get worse eventually, but the shot got the swelling down so things aren’t hitting against each other. That didn’t feel so good,” he explained. “It’s probably going to be something I have to stay on top of. The guys did a great job of helping me come back, so hopefully we can keep it where it is.”

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