“There’s some challenges that he’s faced,’’ said Sox manager John Farrell. “His ability to re-write his own story certainly starts with pitching well. But I think there’s a person within John Lackey that everyone is not aware of. We’re hopeful that people do see the real John Lackey.
The road to redemption starts with a healthy elbow. Lackey had reconstructive elbow surgery 15 months ago and enters spring training without restrictions.
“I had to stop throwing in the bullpen [between starts] because of the pain,” Lackey said. “I’ve had something wrong with my elbow for three years now.”
Lackey pitched in increasing discomfort for much of the 2011 season.
He said that the Red Sox medical staff — which has all since been replaced — misled him.
“When you get an MRI after the season and your doctor asks what the hell you were doing pitching, you get the idea that somebody wasn’t being honest with you,” he said. “But I took the ball. That is what you do.”
Said general manager Ben Cherington: “He pitched for as long as he could because he was giving the best chance to win at the time. The last thing you want to do is a force a guy to be out there. He wanted to pitch.”
Just keep moving forward
As Lackey’s career crumbled in 2011, so did his marriage to Krista Clark. It’s not a subject that Lackey cares to expand on, but it’s clearly something that still affects him.
“Nobody wants to go through a divorce,” he said. “I’m as good as I can be. It wasn’t fun, definitely not something I ever foresaw happening to me. But things happen.
“Time helps. But, you know, we’ll see. You keep moving forward. I’m trying to be true to myself and know who I am.”
Lackey now lives full-time in the Fort Worth area. He has a suite at Cowboys Stadium and attends most of the NFL and college games there, inviting teammates along.
Lackey opened his home to his sister and her family during the offseason. Having his niece and nephew, ages 3 and 1, underfoot helped him forget about baseball for a while.
And — get this — Lackey says he actually enjoys spending time in Boston.
“The city is great. One thing I love is that it’s a big city but it’s very walkable, very manageable,” he said. “I have a lot of fun there. The restaurants are awesome. I’ve met people at certain restaurants and they take care of me. We’re good.”
Lackey leaned back in a chair, looking up at the Florida sun as he talked. This spring training, he said, feels like his first.
“It’s fresh for me again. It’s a restart in a lot of ways for the team and for myself,” he said. “There’s time to change things. That’s a challenge and I like a challenge.”