FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Still about a month from making his first official start for the Red Sox, John Lackey will have a soft launch of sorts on Saturday afternoon, when he makes his Grapefruit League debut at City of Palms Park against the Twins.
For the first time in his Major League career, Lackey will make a start wearing something other than an Angels uniform.
"I would say it's different, for sure," said Lackey. "It's just part of the deal and I'm just getting ready [for the season]."
By signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with Boston back in December, Lackey opted to embrace the challenge of pitching for the Red Sox.
His proving ground won't start on Saturday, but the Red Sox are looking forward to watching him pitch on their side for the first time.
"Sure, we all are," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "I think he's anticipating it, as well. We get through the BP sessions, and John and Clay [Buchholz] are starting Day 3 and Day 4 of Spring Training, and it kind of feels like a little bit of an eternity. But again, if he throws the ball like he did in his last BP session, it'll be another progressive step."
Lackey has blended into the mix this spring, staying in the background, but not short-changing anyone with work ethic.
"He has a very genuine approach," said Farrell. "There's not a lot of talk about what he says he's going to do. He's out to demonstrate and lead by example. He's got a long history of doing that. And with just how quickly he's fit into this group of pitchers on this staff and on this team, I think he feels very comfortable at a very early stage."
Lackey will play for a split-squad roster on Saturday, pitching in a game that starts at 1:05 p.m. ET. Manager Terry Francona will go to Port Charlotte, Fla., with the half of his roster that will play the Rays. The starting infield (Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro and Adrian Beltre) will also make the road trip.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.