The effects of cortisone shots, though, don't last forever -- just how long depends on the person and the situation -- and there's a limit on how many one can receive in a given area.
On Wednesday, MLB Network's Peter Gammons raised the possibility in a radio interview with WEEI that Lackey could need Tommy John surgery come August, a suggestion to which Lackey, manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein all responded with alternately hedging and flat denials.
One response was uniform: Lackey's risk is no greater than others in his position.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
"You never know, I don't know. What'd it look like tonight?" Lackey said Wednesday night after a 2-1 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
That was the 32-year-old's response the first time he was asked about the possibility of surgery.
"It's a possibility for everybody in here," said Lackey, who allowed two runs over 7 2/3 innings and recorded Boston's lone RBI. "You can throw that against the wall and see if it sticks."
After the third inquiry, Lackey lost the little patience he has for the media.
"You guys are brutal," he said. "No. There hasn't been [any talk of surgery]."
Francona said before the game that the possibility of Lackey having surgery down the road was "like me saying I'm going to need surgery on my knee in November."
"I'm not sure how to respond to that," Francona said. "I would say no."
Lackey's made five starts since coming off the disabled list, with only one that he'd rather forget -- June 22 vs. the Padres, when he allowed five runs on four hits over 3 1/3 innings.
The veteran said his arm, without a doubt, has felt better since before he went on the disabled list.
"Pretty good," he said. "Probably not as good as some, better than others."
In a long pregame talk with reporters, one that touched on many other topics, Epstein said the team was monitoring Lackey as closely as it does with any pitcher who's had a shoulder or elbow injury.
"You could say the same thing about every pitcher in baseball, that every pitcher in baseball might have to have Tommy John surgery at some point," Epstein said of the possibility of surgery.
Asked specifically if Lackey has been pitching with a tear in his elbow, Epstein said, "I can't discuss that.
"Again, first off, I think almost every pitcher has -- by most definitions, by standard definitions -- a tear of some sort of another in a shoulder or elbow ligament. That's just the nature of throwing a baseball overhand. I think it's accurate to say he had an elbow injury earlier this year and got a shot for it and that alleviated some symptoms, and we're going to monitor it closely."
Before Lackey's performance Wednesday, Francona said he didn't think the Red Sox would pitch someone who's in a position where surgery is imminent.
"Go get em Lack," Francona quipped, "because you have six starts left and then you'll have Tommy John [surgery]."