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Sports

Red Sox counting on John Lackey

FORT MYERS, Fla. — John Lackey started and won the clinching game of the Word Series when he was a rookie with the Angels in 2002.

Eleven years and one major elbow surgery later, he did the same thing for the Red Sox last October.

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“You definitely appreciate the second one a little bit more,” Lackey said Thursday. “As a rookie I came in on a veteran team. There might have been two or three rookies on the team. I was just trying not to screw things up.”

Now Lackey is a veteran starter the Sox are counting on. He was 10-13 with a 3.52 earned run average over 29 starts and 189.1 innings in 2013 after missing the previous season recovering from surgery.

“It’s a lot easier this year for sure. I don’t have to do some of the rehab stuff I had to do last year,” Lackey said. “I feel great physically.”

Pitchers typically show greater improvement in their second season following Tommy John surgery. Lackey wonders if that will be the case at age 35 but does expect to see some extra durability and velocity.

“I’ve put in the work this offseason,” he said. “I feel like I’m prepared. I’ll know more once we start pitching.”

Lackey was one of the Red Sox pitchers who admitted drinking beer in the clubhouse during games in 2011. That led to a torrent of criticism, part of the testy relationship Lackey has had with Boston at times.

On Thursday, he happily joked that the Sox set “a new league record” for beer consumption after they won the Series. He also has a framed Sox jersey from the World Series at his home.

“Things are different now,” Lackey said. “I’m happy to be here with these guys. It’s comfortable for me.”

Lackey is signed through the end of the season. The Sox hold an option on him for 2015 — at the league minimum — as a result of the year missed because of the surgery.

“That was the contract and we’ll see happens,” he said. “If I can pitch, I want to keep pitching.”

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