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Lackey as right as rain

He pours it on in second outing

By Amalie Benjamin and Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / March 12, 2010

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It was unfamiliar to John Lackey, the lengthy bus ride, the rain delay. That just doesn’t happen in Arizona. Fortunately for Lackey, he coped with the former by listening to country music and falling asleep. The latter? It wasn’t a problem either, given how swiftly he completed his outing.

As the Red Sox righthander gets used to his new spring training home, complete with three-hour bus trips across Florida and downpours that interrupt games, he has had no trouble with the one place he knows well: the mound. Lackey has yet to allow a run in two starts, and has not even threatened to do so.

“I like the humidity over here,’’ Lackey said after yesterday’s 8-2 win over the Mets. “That’s one good thing about it. Feel like you get loose a little bit easier on this side, feel the ball a little better.’’

He threw only 30 pitches (17 strikes), allowing three hits in three innings and getting the win. He had to go to the bullpen after exiting the game, throwing an additional 12 pitches before the rain came.

“Fastball down, good movement,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Efficient. Did a real good job.’’

Lackey was happy with his two-seamer, and he induced multiple ground balls off it. He has yet to throw a changeup in a game, however, and his slider wasn’t as good as he had hoped. Lackey also appreciated being able to work with Victor Martinez for the first time, and Martinez appeared just as pleased.

“It was a great day,’’ Martinez said. “It was a lot of fun. He really looked, on the mound, effortless. He wasn’t really trying to overthrow any pitch. He had the two-seamer working pretty good. The ball was kind of heavy on the hitters.’’

Left behind
As the Sox faced the Mets in Port St. Lucie, the players who stayed behind in Fort Myers worked out at City of Palms Park, a group that included Mike Lowell, who has yet to play this spring as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, and Jason Varitek, who missed five days of camp before returning Wednesday. “I’m feeling better,’’ Lowell said. “I’d like to take some more batting practice to really test it. But everything is positive.’’ The tentative plan is for Lowell to play Monday at City of Palms against Baltimore. Varitek took part in defensive drills and batting practice, his second full day of workouts after spending time with his father Joseph, who is seriously ill. Varitek had been scheduled to play today against the Cardinals, but with poor weather expected, he is unlikely to make the trip to Jupiter . . . Kevin Youkilis and Bill Hall are the only regulars likely to make today’s trip. Clay Buchholz will pitch.

On with the show
Buchholz made his debt on Comedy Central Wednesday night, appearing on the “Tosh.0’’ show. The righthander, fittingly, portrayed a pitcher in a skit. Buchholz got to know the show’s host, comedian Daniel Tosh, through his wife, Lindsay. The segment was filmed shortly after last season at Long Beach State. “It was fun,’’ said Buchholz, whose performance can be seen on ComedyCentral.com. “It wasn’t like I had to do much acting, I just had to throw a few pitches.’’ Buchholz also has filmed a commercial for ESPN that is scheduled to appear close to Opening Day. Asked if he planned to pursue a career in show business, Buchholz laughed. “I’m a pitcher,’’ he said.

Off the table
According to the Miami-based Nuevo Herald, the Sox offered Cuban first baseman Jose Julio Ruiz a $2.5 million deal that was withdrawn earlier this week because the player was in poor condition. Ruiz also has recently changed agents, complicating the process. The Rangers, Blue Jays, and Rays also have interest. Scouts are divided on the player, some thinking he is a younger version of David Ortiz and others seeing him as a bench player . . . Pitchers Casey Kelly, Kris Johnson, Robert Manuel, and Kyle Weiland are scheduled to throw in an intrasquad game at the minor league complex tomorrow morning. Kelly will go three innings . . . Francona praised the breaking balls thrown by Junichi Tazawa (two scoreless innings in relief of Lackey), as well as the righthander’s ability to keep the ball down.

Peter Abraham reported from Fort Myers. He can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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