Getting Lackey back on track 'big priority'

Getting Lackey back on track 'big priority'

Getting Lackey back on track 'big priority'
BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander John Lackey's visible display of frustration was consistent with his performance on the field for most of the 2011 season.

When he was pitching poorly, it showed. His arms were often flailing if a fielder didn't come up with a perfect play, and he occasionally gave manager Terry Francona long stare-downs as the skipper made his way to the mound.

But this is what general manager Theo Esptein and the Red Sox signed up for when they gave the 32-year-old pitcher a five-year, $82.5 million contract last December.

"That's nothing new," Epstein said Thursday. "John, he's always been kind of emotional on the mound. He's always been demonstrative. And it always kind of looks bad on the field. It looks as if he's showing up his teammates.

"It was that way in Anaheim, too. We knew that when we signed him, and we also knew that he always apologized the next day, that he's always a great teammate except for those times that he's rolling his eyes, as you said. His teammates forgive him. They understand. He's tried to change, and it's just something you can't change. It's an emotional reaction."

With all the finger-pointing that is sure to follow the Red Sox historic September collapse, Lackey might find himself on the other end. While the rotation was in dire need of consistent pitching, specifically in the final month, Lackey was only adding to his crooked season totals, setting new career highs in ERA (6.41), WHIP (1.62) and opponents average against (.308).

"As far as rehabilitating John Lackey, it's a big priority for obvious reasons," Epstein said. "And we have to attack it from the physical perspective, see if there's things we can do different with him physically to put himself in a better position to have success on the mound ... There obviously are things we can do different with him fundamentally to get his stuff and his command back to where it was. And then, from a mental standpoint [as well]."

Epstein said starting pitching will be one of the most analyzed areas of the offseason, and that the organization might have to reevaluate their position on large financial commitments to individual players.

"Our decision-making process on expensive free agents, big-ticket free agents, has not been satisfactory -- not at all," the GM said. "That's another area we have to address and look in the mirror and dig deep into the process and see what we're doing wrong, because the results demonstrate that that's not an aspect of the organization that's functioning at a high enough level to meet our standards."