Lackey returns for Red Sox in spring opener

Before he walked out to the mound, John Lackey paused for a moment and thought about all the rehabilitation he went through in order to take this next step.

"I kind of took a second," the Red Sox pitcher said, "and reflected on the past year and a half. It's been a lot of work and (I've) got to thank a lot of trainers, a lot of people that helped me get back to this point. I was excited to be back out there."

Lackey returned to the mound Saturday after missing last season following elbow surgery. He got off to a difficult start but worked out of a bases-loaded jam, allowing one run in one inning as a split squad of Tampa Bay Rays beat Boston 4-3.

"(I was) excited. It was fun. I missed playing baseball, for sure," Lackey said. "It was good to be back out there. Arm felt fine. I didn't feel any pain in the elbow. So, just keep moving forward."

Lackey had Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season. Tampa Bay loaded the bases against the right-hander with no outs before he retired three straight batters.

Lackey gave up one hit, a walk and hit a batter with a pitch. He struck out one and threw 20 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Red Sox manager John Farrell was pleased with Lackey's performance.

"From a physical standpoint he came out of today's outing fine," Farrell said. "I thought he looked free and easy on the mound."

- Associated Press

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