BALTIMORE — John Lackey clinched the World Series the last time he started a game, walking off the mound in the seventh inning at Fenway Park to a standing ovation during Game 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Red Sox, cognizant of the extra work he did in the postseason, didn’t have Lackey pitch in spring training until March 11. He threw 18⅔ innings over four starts.
Now Lackey will pitch in a game that counts again when he faces the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. In his last spring training start, on Thursday, Lackey threw 6⅓ scoreless innings against Minnesota, striking out six and allowing only four hits.
“With each outing, he progressed as we could have hoped,” manager John Farrell said. “He showed his best arm strength and best overall stuff in his final outing.
“We took a pretty clear and designed approach in getting him to game speed. We’re looking forward to what we get on the mound on Wednesday.”
Lackey is 13-5 with a 3.35 earned run average in 23 career starts against Baltimore. He was 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA in four starts against the Orioles last season.
Ubaldo Jimenez starts for Baltimore. The righthander was signed Feb. 19 and started four spring training games. He has am 11.72 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox.
Jimenez couldn’t get through the second inning against the Sox last April 16 when he was the Indians, giving up seven runs on two hits and five walks.
On the run?
With Jacoby Ellsbury now with the Yankees and Shane Victorino on the disabled list, the leading base stealer on the Red Sox is Dustin Pedroia, who had a modest 17 last season.
Next in line among returning players is David Ortiz with four.
The Red Sox were third in the American League with 123 steals last season and may not get half as many this year. But Farrell believes they can still find success running.
“You take out two top base-stealers off the roster, it’s going to have an impact,” he said. “I think the biggest thing to us is how opportunistic we were.”
By that Farrell is referring to stealing a base on a ball in the dirt or taking advantage of an inattentive pitcher.
“That’s what has always driven us, the success rate, not the total number of stolen bases achieved,” Farrell said. “That part of the game is not going to leave us. We’ve just got to be a little more sure if we attempt.”
Xander Bogaerts, though 21, is not a base-stealer. His best season in the minors produced seven. Jackie Bradley Jr. had 24 in 33 attempts in the minors in 2012 but only seven in 14 tries last season.
Grady Sizemore has 134 steals in his career but the Sox figure to be cautious given his injury history.
In the wings
Triple A Pawtucket opens its season at home on Thursday against Lehigh Valley. Righthander Allen Webster will start. Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Jeremy Kehrt, and Chris Hernandez will follow.
Righthander Matt Barnes is expected to join the Pawtucket rotation when ready. He made one appearance for the Red Sox in spring training before being shut down with a sore shoulder. He since has started throwing again in extended spring training and building up arm strength.
Pawtucket’s lineup will include catcher Christian Vazquez, third baseman Garin Cecchini, and outfielder Bryce Brentz.
Lefthander Henry Owens, catcher Blake Swihart, shortstop Deven Marrero, and second baseman Mookie Betts are the top prospects with Double A Portland, which opens Thursday at Reading.
Sean Coyle, a third-round pick in 2010, is making the transition to third base with Portland.
Bo Greenwell, the son of former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, was assigned to the Sea Dogs. The 25-year-old spent seven seasons in the Cleveland organization before being signed by the Red Sox.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.