Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lackey used to be a power-hitting outfielder

John Farrell first met John Lackey a decade ago when the newest Red Sox ace was coming off a National Junior College Athletic Association title with Grayson County College. Farrell wanted to recruit him to play for Oklahoma State but knew he had little chance to do so -- especially after the Angels drafted Lackey in the second round of the June draft.

"I was chasing somebody upstream," Farrell said. "He was long past the thought of going on to (a four-year) school rather than signing a pro contract."

The impression that stuck with Farrell, though, had nothing to do with the way Lackey pitched.

"He was a heck of a hitter," Farrell said.

Lackey pitched and swung a bat as an outfielder as the Vikings won the first of back-to-back NJCAA World Series titles. Lackey didn't participate in the second of those championship runs, however: He by then was climbing from Single-A to Double-A in the Angels' organization and would get to the major leagues two years after that.

Lackey will sit down with Farrell for the first time today to get to know each other and to start to build the relationship necessary for the Red Sox to get the best out of their new pitcher. Lackey worked out at Fenway Park on Thursday and still has some house-hunting to do, but he'll have his first real meeting with his new pitching coach in the meantime.

"I talked to him a little bit today, and we're going to have a meeting tomorrow," Lackey said in a meeting with the media on Thursday night before the Boston baseball writers' dinner. "We're going to start talking about my routines and bounce some ideas off each other."

Farrell isn't exactly going to start off by asserting his own philosophy. Lackey has won more than 100 games and struck out more than 1,200 hitters in his career thus far because he knows what he's doing on the mound.

Still, though, Farrell is considered one of the best pitching coaches in the business for a reason.

"The first and foremost thing will be to listen," Farrell said. "I want to hear from him what his routine entails, what has worked well for him in the past, and I want to do our best to facilitate a plan for him that puts him in the best position to start the season on time and in a very effective way."

One item that will not be discussed? Hitting.

Some might believe that the Red Sox still need one more power bat, but Lackey will not be that bat.

"Not that I'm aware of," Farrell said with a chuckle. "He's an exceptional pitcher and one we're excited to have here, for sure."

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