A healthy, productive Lackey also protects the Sox in case they have issues with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, or Ryan Dempster down the road. If any of those pitchers go down, Lackey’s experience could help pick up the slack. At least that’s the hope, if he’s healthy.
Lackey has endured a lot of personal and professional strife in the last year and a half. He was the human dartboard for fan resentment against the Sox and was part of the chicken-and-beer gang people came to hate. He seems to have adjusted that image, coming off as much more humble and relaxed and self-deprecating.
He likely pitched with a bad elbow for at least two years and perhaps even longer, and his comeback from Tommy John surgery has earned him increased respect on the team.
Could Lackey return to his Anaheim form — the 23-year-old kid who won two games in the 2002 World Series, including Game 7, over the Giants? Well, maybe not. But Sunday was a good start. Even if it was against the Astros, Lackey has wanted the chance to start his climb back as a major league pitcher.
After Sunday, it appears Lackey will get that opportunity.