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Turn back the clock: Bud Black says this was vintage John Lackey

07.02.13 at 11:21 pm ET
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“That’s as good as I’ve seen John [Lackey] throw in a number of years.”

John Lackey logged eight innings and allowed just one run on Tuesday. (AP)

John Lackey logged eight innings and allowed just one run on Tuesday. (AP)

Padres manager Bud Black would know. Before he joined San Diego, Black spent seven years as the Angels pitching coach — including five (from 2002 to 2006) when Lackey was a starter for the Halos.

And so, Black was uniquely positioned to rave about Lackey’s performance following the game on Tuesday night. Lackey went eight innings, allowing just six hits, giving up one run and striking out six.

Black noted that there were not a lot of distinctions between the Lackey he worked with in Anaheim and the one on display on Tuesday.

“There aren’t a lot of differences,” Black said of Lackey. “You know, there was a time where he was going through some elbow issues. But his delivery looked the same [as with the Angels]. Competitiveness looks the same. John wears his emotions on his sleeve. But today was good stuff. He looked leaner, strong, arm looks good.”

Lackey, coming off Tommy John surgery, has begun to pitch like an ace for the Red Sox. Tuesday was his fourth quality start in a row, a stretch in which he has struck out 27 batters and walked just three.

What made him so effective Tuesday night? Basically everything.

“Velocity was really up for the first 50, 60 pitches,” Black said. “When John’s hitting 94, 95, 96, he’s feeling good. So the velocity was there. He had a good hard slider early in the game, and as the game progressed he started mixing in a few slower breaking balls. Was really tough on the right-handed hitter tonight. Tough on the left-handed hitter, too, cutting the ball in on them. Stuff-wise, the ball was really coming out of his hand well tonight. We couldn’t solve him.”

Not many teams have been able to solve Lackey so far this season. With Tuesday night’s gem, Lackey lowered his ERA to 2.81, placing him amongst the elite in the American League. Given the arduous rehab that he had to endure, the year of being unable to pitch in big league games, Lackey acknowledged how satisfying it is to be able to enjoy his current run — even as he offered a reminder that it isn’t without precedent in his career.

“There’s been a lot of hard work, and 18 months of rehab and working in between starts,” Lackey said. “My arm’s feeling pretty good right now. It’s fun to let loose a little bit and not feel anything. I’m healthy. I’ve been locating the ball pretty good. It has happened before.’’

Both he and Black would know.

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