Lackey, Matsuzaka trying new approaches to spring
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – After starting the previous two seasons on the disabled list, Red Sox starter John Lackey is trying a new approach to spring training in hopes of being ready from the get-go in Boston.
Lackey, who signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract in the offseason as baseball’s prized pitching free agent, said he will be more conservative in his first camp with Boston.
Lackey started 2008 on the DL with a strained right triceps and 2009 with inflammation in his right elbow. He threw approximately 40 pitches in a side session on Thursday morning, the reporting day for Red Sox pitchers and catchers.
“I think I’m definitely going to be a little bit more careful this year,” he said “Because I definitely want to start on time and I want to get out of the gate strong and help the team as much as I can.”
He joins a rotation that projects to be among the strongest in baseball with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and possibly Tim Wakefield.
“I think good pitchers feed off each other,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “You try to build momentum. It works both ways. If you’re struggling, good pitchers stop bad momentum. … You can’t come up with a good reason not to have a good pitcher pitching. You name it, it’s nice to run a good pitcher out there.”
Matsuzaka is also trying to do things differently this spring after he won just four games in an injury plagued 2009.
He worked out at Athletes’ Performance in Tempe, Ariz., in the offseason for the first time to improve his overall conditioning. He appears to be in better shape, but a back ailment has limited his workouts this week.
He downplayed the extent of the injury, calling it “just a little bit of fatigue that built up,” but acknowledged that in the past that he might have kept the information to himself.
Matsuzaka, who is in the fourth year of a six-year, $51 million deal, said he learned a few things last year, when communication with the team about his injuries and conditioning became a problem.
“I think that if a similar situation had happened in the past I feel like I have a pretty high pain tolerance,” Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino. “So if I can tolerate the pain, and still somehow play through, and be able to do what I had to do, I think I would have taken a lot of that on myself.
“But I definitely don’t want to make the same mistakes that were made last year. So right now, I think it’s important for me to talk about my condition and share that with the team in as much detail as possible.”
Hearing that comes as a relief to the Red Sox and Francona said they already notice a difference in Matsuzaka’s physical fitness.
“He’s already shown us by the way he showed up,” Francona said. “He spent the majority of the winter doing some things to show he’s motivated. I care more about someone showing me than telling me over the phone. He’s worked really hard.”
He has one goal in mind – staying healthy.
“Once the season starts, my goal is to get through the season injury free,” Matsuzaka said. “So I really have to put myself in a place where I’m able to do that. Once I’m able to do that, I think I’ll be able to think more about the actual season.
“I want to be able to be the kind of player that the team can really rely on, and that’s really it.”