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John Lackey continues his strong comeback

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 21, 2013 10:12 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The reclamation of John Lackey continued on Thursday night as he allowed one run over five innings against a Philadelphia lineup that included Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, and Ben Revere.

Lackey picked up 13 groundball outs and threw 50 of 73 pitches for strikes.

In five starts this spring (including the one against the very strong team Puerto Rico sent to the WBC), Lackey has allowed seven earned runs over 11.2 innings.

A 5.39 earned run average may not sound like a big deal. But it's worth noting that three of the runs came on a home run by Pittsburgh's Jared Goedert on Feb. 28 when Lackey was throwing all fastballs and building up arm strength.

"I don't think we could have anticipated much more coming into camp from him," manager John Farrell said.

Two positive signs for Lackey:

Velocity: Lackey was hovering around 92 m.p.h. against the Phillies, a tick above what he averaged in 2011. Given that he is still building up, you can expect that to jump a little. "There’ll be more. You put the third deck on the stadium, things happen," Lackey said.

Lackey doesn't need to overwhelm anybody. Sitting at 92-93 will work just fine for him.

"I think he's right where we anticipated he'd be," Farrell said. "We know that typical of a guy coming back from Tommy John surgery, there's going to be some ups and downs with arm strength. But the one thing John has on his side is a lot of experience and know-how on what works best for him on a given day."

Command: Lackey has walked three batters this spring. Pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery often say that command is the last thing that they regain.

"I think a lot of that stems from the reshaping of his body," Farrell said. "It's freed his body up. He's got better body control; more consistent in the outings he's pitched. He repeats his delivery very well. When you consider that he's been able to throw pitches to both sides of the plate, even further emphasizes his body control."

Lackey will make two more starts: a minor league game on Tuesday and then probably some sort of intrasquad game on March 31 after the team breaks camp. That would line him up to face the Blue Jays in the fifth game of the season on April 6.

Also:

• Daniel Nava had an excellent at-bat against the estimable Cole Hamels in the second inning. With runners on the corners and one out, he worked the count full, fouled off two pitches, and delivered a sacrifice fly to left field.

The switch-hitting Nava is a career .191/.302/.318 hitter when he bats righthanded. So driving in a run against a lefty like Hamels was impressive.

"Thought it was outstanding," Farrell said. "We've seen a number of good at-bats from the right side of the plate by him."

Nava is on the team. Maybe it's not in ink quite yet, but it's close.

• Ben Cherington on Jackie Bradley Jr: “We haven’t made any decisions. We’ve got spots up for competition. I think anybody who is in big league camp this late in the spring has a chance to make the team.”

Cherington claimed that keeping Bradley away from free agency for an extra season is not a primary motivation.

“There’s all sorts of factors to consider. But I think the simplest ones are probably the most important,” the GM said. “Those are, is there an everyday role? Is the player really ready for it and what’s our best team? If we use that to guide us, more often than not we’ll make the right decision.”

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