Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey certainly struggled his first two years in Boston, posting a 4.40 ERA in 2010 and 6.41 ERA in 2011.
But come to find out, he pitched through tremendous pain with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, forcing him to undergo Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season.
He worked hard during his year and a half rehab and he is back this year and possibly stronger than ever.
He has a 3.23 ERA in 19 starts. He’s pitching near the level he was at in 2007 for the Angels when he went 19-9 with an AL-best 3.01 ERA and two shutouts. He finished third for the AL Cy Young that summer.
Lackey went one-on-one the with Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher “Smitty” Smith on Tuesday to discuss a number of different topics.
Smitty: Coming to Boston, what food have you discovered from this area and enjoy the most?
Lackey: The lobster up here — the lobster mac and cheese, lobster, just lobster everything (laughing).
Smitty: What do you like about Boston and do you have any favorite spots?
Lackey: I just like how it’s a big city but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s real walkable. You can go down to Newbury (Street) and just walk around. I went to Stephanie’s for lunch today on Newbury Street. Great place.
Smitty: Fans like you now. I’m not sure if they liked you before.
Lackey: Honestly, whose fault is that?
Smitty: So if you had to do it all over again, would you sign with Boston? Are you glad you came here?
Lackey: I’ve met a lot of guys on the team that are going to be lifelong friends. Love the guys on the team. So for sure. Yeah.
Smitty: Do you cook?
Lackey: No, no, I can’t cook at all. I order pizza really well.
Smitty: What do you enjoy when you’re not here and maybe during the offseason?
Lackey: Golf is definitely part of it. Huge football fan.
Smitty: Which is your favorite college football team?
Lackey: Well, I live in Fort Worth, Texas now so I’ve kind of adapted to TCU a little bit because it’s right there in town. Because I never went to a big school. I just went to a junior college. So I didn’t really go to a school with a (big) football team.
Smitty: Do you like college football more than the NFL?
Lackey: I have a suite at Cowboy Stadium so I go to Cowboys games. But then besides the Cowboys, I like that (college) better than pro actually.
Smitty: How old were you the first time you hit a homer over a fence when you were playing Little League?
Lackey: I think I was probably like 10. I remember my first one kind of hit the top of the fence and went over.
Smitty: Were your parents there to see it?
Lackey: My dad coached me in Little League pretty much all the time.
Smitty: Do you still talk baseball with him?
Lackey: My dad has been a high school baseball coach for years. He just retired, I guess, two years ago. So yeah, he doesn’t give me a whole lot of advice anymore. I’ve kind of been around it. It’s more just like a friend relationship nowadays.
Smitty: If you were a closer and had to pick an entrance song what would it be?
Lackey: I don’t know. I’ve got nothing but country on my iPod. So it would probably be some sort of country.
Smitty: So nothing to pump you up?
Lackey: I’d be motivated. I’m not sure how many other people would be.
Smitty: During the offseason, do you hunt or fish?
Lackey: I’m starting to get into hunting a little bit. My dad’s from California so he wasn’t much of a hunter. So it’s something I’ve got into more with teammates and stuff that have land and are into that kind of stuff.
Smitty: If you weren’t a baseball player, what do you think you’d be doing?
Lackey: I’d probably be a high school football coach and coaching some baseball, too.
Smitty: Were you a good student?
Lackey: Yeah, pretty decent. I’d get it done pretty much anywhere.
Smitty: Would you like to stay in baseball after you retire?
Lackey: I think there’s a good chance of me coaching something but I doubt it would be pro. There’s a good chance of me going back home and coaching and helping out a high school.
Smitty: If there was one pitcher you could talk with around the league right now about pitching, who would it be?
Lackey: I talk to (Angels’) Jered Weaver. He’s one of my good friends in the league. We talk quite a bit about all kinds of stuff. So that would probably be my guy.
Smitty: Do you play an instrument?
Lackey: I’ve been trying to play the guitar and I’m brutal at it.
Smitty: Has Clay Buchholz given you any guitar lessons?
Lackey: We’ve got probably eight different guys who have got guitars in here.
Smitty: When did you start the guitar?
Lackey: I got the guitar last year when I was hurt for something to do — killing time.
Smitty: What kind of guitar is it?
Lackey: I’ve got a Martin. I bought it right over here ... at this guitar shop right here by the yard.
Smitty: What has this year been like for you?
Lackey: First of all, it’s been great just to be back pitching and then to be pitching well and then to be pitching in a playoff race, it’s been about as good as I could have envisioned. Because I put in a lot of hard work over the past year and a half. So it’s nice to see it paying off.
Smitty: Are you a video-guy when preparing for an upcoming start?
Lackey: The day before my start I try to watch at least two games in the last week of the team I’m about to face the next day. So yes, I guess I am a little bit of a video guy. It’s something I’ve done since Anaheim a little bit. It’s something I’ve been doing for a while.
Smitty: What’s the most important stat for a pitcher?
Lackey: There’s way too many stats these days.
Smitty: You’re more of a pitcher who just goes out of there and ...
Lackey: Try to win the game. Yeah. Yeah. (laughing).
Smitty: Who were some pitchers who helped you along the way when you were younger?
Lackey: I had some good guys when I was a rookie. Aaron Sele was a guy who really took me under his wing and took good care of me. He taught me a lot of different stuff on the field and off the field — how to tip and how to be a big leaguer.
Follow Eagle-Tribune baseball reporter Christopher Smith on Twitter @SmittyOnMLB.