TORONTO -- Considering that an 18-month buildup led to John Lackey's ability to pitch again in a Major League game on Saturday afternoon, he couldn't help but fear the worst when his day was suddenly cut short by another injury.
And by fear the worst, this is what Lackey thought, ever so briefly.
"A year and a half of getting to this point and having to do it again," Lackey said after the Red Sox's 5-0 loss to the Blue Jays. "Yeah, it scared the crap out of me."
Well, it turns out things don't look so bad after all. The initial diagnosis for Lackey is a strained right biceps. Lackey will fly to Boston on Sunday morning and undergo an MRI.
No rupture was detected in the training room at Rogers Centre, and more importantly than that, the injury is not related to his shoulder or his rebuilt elbow, which underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2011.
Still, it was a tough way for what was supposed to be Lackey's feel-good day to end.
"A pretty good cramp," Lackey said. "It's all in the biceps. It's not the elbow. It's frustrating and it was scary when it happened. It's sore, but hopefully not too serious."
In 4 1/3 innings, Lackey struck out eight and had just one blemish -- a two-run homer by J.P. Arencibia in the bottom of the fourth.
"He looked sharp," said manager John Farrell. "He had good action to his secondary stuff. The velocity was probably the best we've seen to date. He was free and easy. He threw all his pitches for strikes. He pitched out of a couple of jams with some men on base. I think into that inning overall, he was pitching as we ever could have anticipated or hoped."
But in that inning Farrell referred to -- the fifth -- things went haywire in a hurry. Lackey opened the frame by striking out Emilio Bonifacio.
Lackey threw a 2-2 curveball that Jose Reyes fouled off. Lackey shook his arm ever so briefly, appearing to have some slight discomfort.
Then came the next pitch, a ball, and Lackey immediately slumped over, his arm feeling a cramping sensation. As Farrell and trainer Rick Jameyson hurried to the mound, Lackey seemed to have his arm dangling. Then he rubbed his biceps muscle before walking off the mound.
"I felt a little something tight on the pitch before, but it grabbed me pretty good on the last pitch," Lackey said. "My hand didn't go numb or anything like that, like I've had with elbow stuff. It was pretty much right in the belly of the biceps."
"We called cutter away, and I knew something had to be wrong," said catcher David Ross. "He just jerked it down and in. I turned around to get a ball from the umpire and saw him grab his arm. Hopefully he's OK. Let the doctors check him out and see what happened."
At the very least, it seems apparent that Lackey will miss a start or two.
"Just seeing how good he was throwing the ball, how easy it was coming out of his hand … it stinks for him, but it also stinks for all of us because he's a really likable guy and everybody was looking forward to him coming out here and pitching after a season off," said right-hander Clay Buchholz. "Hopefully everything is all right with him. He might have to have a DL stint, but hopefully that's all it is."
Meanwhile, all Lackey can do is board a plane back to Boston on Sunday and hope for the best.
"The test they ran on me here today looked pretty good," Lackey said. "Hopefully we'll get a picture of it tomorrow and get after it. Hopefully it's nothing too crazy. It got better when I got inside [the clubhouse]. It kind of loosened up a little bit. It felt like a pretty good cramp, like a hamstring kind of thing, which I've had before. I would liken it to that."