BOSTON -- John Lackey was finally back on the Fenway Park mound on Saturday afternoon, albeit in a brief batting practice session against teammates Daniel Nava and Ivan De Jesus. Still, it was a moment to relish for Lackey and the Red Sox, signaling a key step in the right-hander's return from Tommy John surgery.
It was the first time Lackey faced hitters since last season.
"John threw 15 pitches today to hitters," said manager Bobby Valentine. "First step in a new world for him after a real hard summer of rehab. Better than how he looked was how he felt. He said he felt great afterwards, and that's what's really important."
How did Lackey look?
"He looked OK, considering it's the first time," Valentine said. "His breaking ball was really good, which is usually the last thing. He's been working on that less. He just didn't have real good control of his two-seamer."
Considering that Lackey knew from the start that his 2012 season would basically be all about rehab, he has impressed those around him with his work ethic.
"From the first day of Spring Training, when I saw John in the weight room, I was impressed with his work," Valentine said. "He works after games late. He's here religiously. The only day I haven't seen him working out, he had to make a move in southern California, like one day. It's really been very impressive."
The hope is that Lackey be a key member in Boston's rotation next season.
"I wish I could have that little magic crystal ball that told me the future," said Valentine. "If he continues to work hard all winter, which I believe he will, he'll give us and himself the best chance. Now whether or not it has to be Opening Day, I can tell you right now, I don't think that is necessarily a goal. To get him back healthy would be the key -- 100 percent."
Lackey will throw another round of batting practice in the coming days. The hope is that he will pitch in a competitive situation before the season ends, perhaps in the instructional league or maybe even in a short outing for the Red Sox.