LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The last thing you want to see in spring training is one of your star pitchers diving for a grounder, and then getting stung on the leg by a line drive.
But the Red Sox’ John Lackey could laugh about it after Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.
In the third inning, Jordan Schafer’s bunt was fielded by a diving Lackey, who scooped the ball to first base with his glove. He nearly collided with second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the play but Pedroia backed off.
“I asked [Pedroia] if he liked that one,” Lackey said. “He was pretty fired up.”
“If I’d have gone in there and collided, I would have taken the worst of it,” Pedroia kidded with Lackey.
“Yes, you would have,” agreed Lackey.
Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman then hit Lackey with a liner.
“I feel fine,” Lackey said. “He got me in the thigh. There’s some meat there.”
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski called for the trainer.
“A.J. was just being funny,” said Lackey, who was kidding with Pedroia also. “Nothing happened on that.”
Lackey was stung for five runs on 10 hits in 4⅔ innings. He allowed home runs to Andrelton Simmons and a two-run shot to Dan Uggla. Over his last two outings he’s allowed 10 runs in 9⅔ innings.
“I felt fine,” insisted Lackey. “I definitely thought I threw the ball better this time compared to the last time. I definitely had a good bullpen session in between, felt like my slider was better. The last one I threw to Uggla wasn’t a good one. But I got up to 80-something pitches.”
Rather than throttle down, as most pitchers do in their last outing, Lackey will continue to throttle up. It was part of the master plan by manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves to start Lackey slowly and build him up right until his first start.
“I’ll just keep going for real,” Lackey said. “I have a night game next time so I’ll get after it a little bit more. I’d like to go into the season not being on a pitch count. Just normal. It’s spring training.
“I’m not concerned about the numbers, just trying to build arm strength.”
Lackey thinks he won’t hit full throttle “for a few more weeks, to be honest with you. I’ll be good enough to compete.”
Despite the rocky outing, Lackey was comfortable working with Pierzynski.
“It’s been pretty easy,” Lackey said. “I haven’t shook him off once. We incorporate a new pitch each time. Calls a good game. He’s a good hitter so that helps him game-calling.”
Caught off guard
The Red Sox had three base-running mishaps, two involving Daniel Nava on caught-stealings. One came on the front end of what looked like a botched double-steal. “Nava gave two shuffles [with his feet],” explained Farrell. “When a base runner crosses over with the intention of taking off, that’s what Vic [Shane Victorino] was reading. As we talked about before with Daniel, we’re trying to get him to be more aggressive on the bases and for him to test those limits a lot more.” . . . Farrell was again pleased with the work of Francisco Cordero, who allowed one hit in his one scoreless inning. “Cordero has done an outstanding job using all his pitches. He’s made the most of the opportunities,” Farrell said . . . Farrell refused to officially announce Jon Lester as the Opening Day starter, but he said, “Count the days, it’s not a secret.” . . . Farrell indicated that he thought the team’s game plan of easing pitchers into their spring training workload has worked well. The starters all seem ready for the start of the season. Farrell said he’ll lay out a game plan for the starters for the final few days of camp. “I like the way our starters have come along early,” he said. “The work plan has physically agreed with them.”