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Work in pen a start for Lackey

He feels good in 40-pitch session

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 25, 2011

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CLEVELAND — John Lackey threw 40 pitches in the bullpen at Progressive Field yesterday, starting a process the Red Sox hope to will lead to his coming off the disabled list June 5.

Lackey will throw another side session Friday, then four innings in a minor league rehabilitation game Tuesday. A start against the Athletics at Fenway Park would follow.

The righthander has not pitched in a game since May 11 because of a strained elbow.

“Definitely a step in the right direction. Felt a lot better,’’ Lackey said. “I was happy with the way I was finishing stuff. Didn’t have to think about anything. I was able to let it go a little bit. Wasn’t feeling the same kind of bite that I had in the elbow.’’

Lackey had injections May 16 in several spots in the joint. That has eased the pain he was feeling, particularly when he extended his arm. That had been the case in his last few starts.

“It might have not let me finish some pitches quite like I wanted to, I guess,’’ Lackey said. “It was definitely a lot better than I have been feeling. The cortisone shot got most of the swelling out of there. That definitely sped the process along.’’

Lackey looked more like himself yesterday, according to pitching coach Curt Young.

“I think Curt and Lack were both thrilled,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “The ball came out of his hand good. Lack felt good.’’

Lackey, Young, and Francona met briefly to map out the next steps. Lackey threw only fastballs yesterday but will use all of his pitches Friday in what will amount to a simulated game.

Francona was not sure where the rehab game would take place. Pawtucket is home that night, making McCoy Stadium the likely destination. Portland has a doubleheader in New Britain, Conn.

“I definitely need to see some hitters, for sure,’’ said Lackey. “It’s been quite a while since I’ve done that. That’ll help. Not having the pain, being able to finish some stuff will be nice.’’

Lackey is 2-5 with an 8.01 ERA in seven starts. The Sox hope the stint on the disabled list will enable Lackey to restart what has been a hugely disappointing season.

“I’ve got to look at it like every time I go out there, try to give us a chance to win,’’ said Lackey. “Whatever’s happened, happened. I can’t really do much about that.’’

Francona believes the program laid out yesterday will produce results.

“Lack was on board, and we all feel like this is the best way to get him back to what we’re trying to do,’’ he said.

Lackey is 17-6 with a 2.86 ERA against Oakland in 32 career starts. He allowed one run in six innings against the A’s April 19 in Oakland. That history likely contributed to the timing of his return.

Pedroia ‘a little sore’ Dustin Pedroia was taken out of Monday night’s game after slipping on second base and jarring his surgically repaired left foot. Francona had him out of the lineup in last night’s 4-2 win over the Indians, something he was considering anyway.

“I’m a little sore,’’ Pedroia said. “I’ll be OK.’’

Pedroia reported to the park early for treatment, then engaged in a spirited game of Nintendo RBI Baseball against teammate Rich Hill. He was in good spirits.

“Probably a little relieved, as we are,’’ Francona said.

Pedroia broke the navicular bone in his left foot last June and had a steel screw inserted to help mend the break in August. That has allowed him to play but leads to occasional numbness if he bangs his foot. It happened for the first time in Anaheim April 21.

Francona said Pedroia has handled the situation “like a champ, that’s what he does.’’

Drew Sutton started at second base last night, his first start since being called up Friday. He went 0 for 4. Sutton played the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, and leadoff hitter Jack Hannahan hit a grounder in the hole that slid past him for a single and sparked a two-run rally to win the game.

Francona believes Pedroia would have made the play.

“It’s nothing against Sutton,’’ said the manager. “[Pedroia] probably runs over and sucks that ball up and you’ve got nobody on and one out.’’

Okajima clears Lefthanded reliever Hideki Okajima, who was designated for assignment Friday, cleared waivers and was sent to Pawtucket. Okajima has appeared in seven games for the Sox this season . . . Righthanded reliever Bobby Jenks will remain on the disabled list longer than he had hoped. He said Monday that he hoped to throw once more in the bullpen before being activated, but Francona said several more bullpen sessions and a rehab assignment would be required . . . With Pedroia out, Jed Lowrie moved into the second spot in the order and went 0 for 3 with a sacrifice fly. Francona considered moving Carl Crawford up from eighth but decided against it. “I don’t want to be bouncing him around because Pedey will be back in there tomorrow,’’ the manager said. His other concern was having three lefthanded hitters in a row at the top of the order, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez flanking Crawford. That would allow the Indians to deploy lefthanded reliever Tony Sipp with greater effectiveness. “Don’t want to invite that,’’ Francona said . . . NESN’s Peter Gammons reported that Daisuke Matsuzaka would return from Japan to get a second opinion on his ailing right elbow June 3 in Los Angeles.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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