BOSTON (CBS) – Once a card carrying member of the Chicken & Beer Club, Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey has done a complete 180.
Lackey was once a pariah of local sports talk radio in this city, failing to live up to the 5-year, $82.5 million contract signed in 2009 during an offseason in which the team’s biggest need was not starting pitching.
In his first season in 2010, Lackey posted a 14–11 record and a 4.40 ERA over 215 innings pitched — numbers not bad for a no. 5 starter, but quite pedestrian for someone earning $16.5 million annually.
Lackey also routinely showed up teammates on the mound for defensive errors and refused to hold himself accountable in postgame interviews.
Then came the historic September collapse and subsequent fried chicken fiasco, followed by a 2012 lost to Tommy John surgery — an all time low for Sox fans’ opinion of the veteran hurler.
However, the sentiment began to shift for Lackey as the 2013 team piled up more and more wins, capped off with a stellar World Series clinching performance in Game 6 against the Cardinals.
Finally, John Lackey is the pitcher we wanted him to be — and he’s off to another great start in 2014.
“Lackey was in a groove for awhile last night,” said Andy Gresh in regards to the team’s 6-2 win. “He was painting the corners a little bit and he just threw a bunch of heaters.”
Lackey allowed just two runs on three hits in the outing; his only error coming via a Nelson Cruz two-run homer — but for Scott Zolak, last night’s performance was more than just last night.
“This guy at the beginning I killed him. I hated the guy. He was my least favorite Red Sox probably of all time. He’s done a 180 for me. I appreciate the way he grinds now. To go and get that surgery — he could have retired — but this guy came back.
“It’s always like Lackey is the forgotten guy in the rotation. Lackey is not [like Clay Buchholz] where he goes on the DL for half the season. He’s not that guy. He’s the guy that will go out there, get the starts and grind innings. He’s turned around his career here. He took care of his body, he looks great. I love Lackey now. I like John Lackey and I never thought I’d say that,” said Zolak.
Gresh is in agreement with Zo on Lackey, a player who improved not only on the field but off as well.
“He came back last year with a different attitude, looking like a different person and pitching like a different guy. He was consistent, durable, affable and cut down on the antics on the mound,” said Gresh. “He’s completely changed the way we feel about him. He was at one point in time maybe the most hated athlete in Boston, and look at him now.
“Ever since the chicken and beer stuff and the surgery, John Lackey has become the guy we’ve all wanted him to be. He shut his mouth, worked hard, and pitched well. Can’t ask for anything more,” Gresh concluded.
Listen below for the full discussion: