Three weeks after he walked off the mound with what appeared to be a serious injury, John Lackey is ready to give it another shot.
The righthander will start against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon having recovered from the biceps strain that ended his first start of the season on April 6.
Lackey opened the season as the Red Sox’ No. 5 starter and pitched well against the Blue Jays in Toronto, giving up two runs on five hits over 4⅓ innings. He struck out eight.
Lackey hit 94 miles per hour with his fastball and all appeared well before he threw a pitch that nearly hit Jose Reyes and left him clutching his arm.
“When he felt it up in Toronto, I think it was just getting to an arm speed and a velocity he hasn’t experienced in probably two years,” manager John Farrell said.
The Red Sox shut Lackey down for about a week before he started throwing again. He made a rehabilitation start for Double A Portland on Monday, throwing 67 pitches over 3⅔ innings.
With only eight innings and 143 pitches under his belt since the end of spring training, Lackey may not be able to go more than four or five innings on Sunday. But with a day off on Monday, the Sox will be able to extend their bullpen if needed.
“I’ll go until they tell me to stop,” Lackey said Saturday.
Farrell said the Red Sox have an idea of what Lackey can give him. The stress of the outing will factor into that.
Lackey said his biceps feels fine and that he’s eager to get going again.
“We’ll see what happens. I’m hoping for five [innings],” he said.
Taking it slow
Shane Victorino missed his third consecutive game with a lower-back strain. Farrell said there was only slight improvement. The right fielder is on anti-inflammatory medication.
Daniel Nava started in right field Saturday night with Mike Carp in left.
With the team off on Monday, it is unlikely that Victorino will play before Tuesday, if then.
“If there’s no real significant improvement, we’ll probably take advantage of [Sunday] and the off day to try and get ahead of this,” Farrell said.
The Sox are in Toronto for three games starting on Tuesday.
The Rogers Centre has hard artificial turf and Farrell said that could be a factor in determining when Victorino will play again.
“We’ve got to consider it,” Farrell said.
In case Victorino does go on the disabled list, the Red Sox are preparing Jackie Bradley Jr. as a possible replacement.
Bradley has been playing center field since he was optioned on April 20. But he started in right field for Triple A Pawtucket on Friday and played there again on Saturday.
Getting nerves out
Joel Hanrahan allowed a double and a two-run homer in his inning for Pawtucket on Friday night in Buffalo. But the right hamstring strain that landed him on the disabled list was not an issue.
“I was a little nervous going into the game. But once I got through that first hitter, which was a long at-bat, it was fine,” Hanrahan said.
“Everything felt good. I felt good [Saturday] morning when I woke up, too.”
Hanrahan is scheduled to pitch an inning for Pawtucket on Sunday.
“I’ll go out this time and worry more about the results,” he said. “I’ll try to locate some pitches better. But ultimately my leg feels good and that was the main thing.
“I’ll throw more breaking balls this time and work on that. I was throwing almost all fastballs [Friday] night.”
Hanrahan was shut down on April 14 after a series of rocky outings that included a blown save against Baltimore on April 10, when he allowed five runs.
“It wasn’t going to get any better,” he said. “It was affecting myself and affecting the team and the guys in the bullpen. It wasn’t fair to anybody. It was something that needed to be done and they’ve done a good job without me.”
Hanrahan hopes to be activated for Tuesday’s game in Toronto.
“Provided everything goes accordingly, there’s a real chance he’ll rejoin us on the road trip,” Farrell said.
Andrew Bailey has been closing in Hanrahan’s absence and pitching well. Once Hanrahan is ready, it is expected he will return to the ninth inning.
Aceves joins PawSox
Alfredo Aceves reported to Triple A Pawtucket on Saturday as the Red Sox requested. He is expected to join the PawSox rotation on Thursday . . . Lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow pitched an inning for Pawtucket on Saturday night, facing three batters. He walked the leadoff hitter then picked him off. After a single, the next batter struck out and the runner was thrown out stealing second. Breslow threw 15 pitches, seven strikes. He is scheduled for another inning for Pawtucket on Sunday . . . Lefthanded reliever Franklin Morales has been shut down because of a strained left pectoral muscle and is not expected to start throwing again until Tuesday. Morales was already on the disabled list with a back injury. Morales had his rehab assignment stopped and would seem to be at least several weeks from pitching again. Morales’s assorted injuries — a shoulder injury shut down his season at the end of 2012 — could be related to his constantly changing roles last season. Morales opened the season as a reliever, became a starter for a month, went back to the bullpen for three weeks, and then started four more games before feeling shoulder pain . . . Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was on the field early working on his throwing with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and bullpen coach Dana LeVangie. Lavarnway was called up Thursday and optioned after Saturday’s game to make room for Lackey . . . Sunday is Maine Day at Fenway.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.