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John Lackey on his spring debut: ‘I missed playing baseball’

02.23.13 at 3:29 pm ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey is a changed man.

After allowing one run on one hit, one strikeout, one walk and one hit batter in his spring debut Saturday, the 34-year-old right-hander admitted to being his age, laughed about his 20-pitch outing and expressed appreciation for feeling no pain in his elbow for the first time since signing with the Red Sox before the 2010 season.

“I’ve lied, for sure, about that,” Lackey said when asked if he hid arm pain from the Red Sox in the first three seasons with the team. “There’s definitely some pain. There were a few times when I said there wasn’t but it’s been a few years, for sure.”

Despite loading the bases with none out on the first 10 pitches he threw, he was enjoying the experience all the while on the JetBlue mound.

“I did,” he said. “I kind of took a second before I went out on the mound and reflected on the bench on the past year and a half. It’s been a lot of work and have to thank a lot of trainers, a lot of people that helped me get back to this point. I was excited to be back out there.

“[I was] excited. It was fun. I missed playing baseball for sure. It was good to be back out there. The arm felt fine. I didn’t feel any pain in the elbow. Just keep moving forward.”

Lackey allowed one run, one hit, one walk, struck out a batter and hit a batter in a 20-pitch first inning of work, his only inning of the day.

“Results stuff I really wasn’t real concerned about today,” he said. “Just glad to be back out there and get things going in that direction. Next time out we’ll get to working on a few other things.”

What did his manager think?

‘€œThe ball got out of his hand as we expected today,” John Farrell said. ‘€œIt’€™s a big step, and it’€™s one over the last 16 months, he was on his program, and at times, he probably felt like he was the only one going through it. And today was the first step for his building block for spring training and getting back to being a regular member of this rotation.

‘€œI think there was a lot of anticipation on a number of people’€™s part, and mostly John’€™s. But now, he’€™s able to get into his five-day rotation, normal sides, normal turns through the schedule. But a good first step for him.’€

Farrell said the plan is to increase to two innings for his next outing, likely in five days against the Pirates in Bradenton, and increase by one inning in each subsequent start.

‘€œThat’€™s the plan,” Farrell said. “He’€™ll build with each consecutive outing, an inning at a time.’€

Lackey admitted he had some nerves taking the mound.

“There’s definitely some for sure,” Lackey said. “It got better as I got a little bit more tired. The ball started coming down a little bit but first couple of hitters, I was up in the zone. I was just going to throw all fastballs today just trying to build arm strength. I think I tried one changeup, that’s it. The rest of them were all fastballs. It’s a little different than throwing on the side for sure.”

Lackey said he wasn’t worried about velocity in the first game of the spring, a game in which he threw no breaking balls.

“The first game after Tommy John? No. I was just trying to hit the glove in the air today. The plan was one inning all along. I look forward to the next time for sure,” Lackey said.

Read More: 2013 spring training, Boston Red Sox, john lackey, MLB
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