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Dennis Eckersley on M&M: John Lackey is ‘disturbing to watch’

06.28.11 at 2:57 pm ET
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NESN baseball analyst Dennis Eckersley talked with Lou Merloni and Tom Caron on Tuesday’s edition of the Mut & Merloni Show about the Red Sox pitching staff and the upcoming showdown with the Phillies. (To listen to the complete interview, click here.)

In advance of the series in Philadelphia, Eckersley said that the Phillies rotation has lived up to its lofty expectations so far.

“I think you have to have [Roy] Oswalt there pitching as good as he can pitch to be the best [rotation] of all time, but you’ve got three guys right now [Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels] that should be in the All-Star game,” Eckersley said. “You could argue they could go 1-2-3 right at you, three best pitchers in the National League. So how good does it get? The two left handers [Lee and Hamels], they’re over the top, but Halladay to me … it’s hard to do what he’s done over the period of time that he has. And I think it’s really helped him that he’s changed leagues. I think there’s a chance for him to get to 250-300 wins.”

While the Phillies have certainly impressed on the mound to this point in the season, Eckersley said Tuesday’s starter [Josh] Beckett has been just as good.

“You think about Beckett, you watch him pitch, nothing goes straight. He’s cutting it … then the change up … one ball’s going that way, one’s going the other,” he said. “He’s got a hook, a consistent hook. What’s forgotten in all this is Beckett — because I’ve been there before, you know when you’re hurt, when people go back to the season and say, ‘Oh this guy stinks.’ Well, stinking has a lot to do with not being 100 percent, which is what happened last year.”

On the other end of the Sox rotation, Eckersley struggled to find a silver lining in John Lackey‘s season to date.

“He’s disturbing to watch. He just is. It’s a tired act when he’s not going well or doesn’t get a pitch,” said Eckersley. “That being said, he didn’t forget how to pitch. He’s got a good little hook. He doesn’t bring it anyway, he’s got to paint a little bit. I can’t imagine he’s going to keep stinking it up and then they’re going to put him in the bullpen. It’s human nature, the guy’s making [$15.25 million]. It’s on your mind when he’s not performing very well, but I think the guy’s been around too long to just forget how to pitch.”

With Clay Buchholz poised to make a return to the starting rotation, manager Terry Francona will have some decisions to make in order to make room for the right-hander. Although Andrew Miller threw six innings of one-run ball in his last start, Eckersley said he expects Miller to assume a bullpen role, while Lackey and Tim Wakefield remain in the rotation.

“You can’t do anything else with Wakefield. You can’t put Wakefield in the bullpen. And you’re not putting Lackey in the bullpen making that kind of … there’s no way,” said Eckersley. “Miller, the big thing with him is control … he can give you one inning, two innings. That’s the move to make, and that’s what we’ve all been looking for in Miller, to me. Can he throw strikes? Hooray for having three pitches because if he goes back out [to the bullpen], all he needs is two.”

As for Boston’s bullpen mainstays, Eckersley said he’s been very impressed with Daniel Bard.

“He throws a lot more breaking balls, and when I first saw him he had that breaking ball that went down. He’s throwing that one that goes across more and he can throw it for strikes. He buckles guys big time,” said the Hall of Fame closer. “And the thing with him is he just got in a little funk. And here you give up four runs and it stays with you forever. He gave up back-to-back home runs, you remember that? But meanwhile he’s been on a roll. And the whole thing we’ve been concerned about with him is not overworking him. Next thing you know you’re not using him for weeks. This guy to me is number one, two setup guys in the league.”

Eckersley also offered his take on a possible MLB realignment, although he admitted his opinion didn’t matter much.

“I can’t stand watching the pitcher hit, and it’s probably because it’s jealously. I wish I would have pitched in the National League for the bulk of my career. So I’m jealous that these guys get these outs,” said Eckersley. “First of all I could tell you all I want and say, ‘Let’s just put the DH all the way through.’ It’s not going to happen. They’re not going to do it. So we’re  just going to have to live with this interleague play. You can ask me anything you want. Go ask [commisioner Bud Selig].”

Read More: Daniel Bard, Dennis Eckersley, john lackey, Josh Beckett
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