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Lackey 'just didn't locate well enough'

BOSTON -- At his best, John Lackey is a top-tier pitcher who goes deep into games and is a quality asset to the Red Sox starting rotation. At his worst, he can give up hits and runs in bunches and is prone to early exits.

Of late, we’ve seen more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll from the big right-hander, and Monday afternoon was another example. In his shortest outing of the year, Lackey lasted only 2 1/3 innings, getting tagged for 7 runs on 9 hits in a 9-7 loss to the Blue Jays. Since joining the Red Sox, Lackey has a 9.95 ERA in seven starts against Toronto.

There are some concerns that Lackey is still bothered by the right elbow that landed him on the disabled list on May 15. After the game, manager Terry Francona dismissed those questions, remarking that his velocity remained steady throughout his brief outing.

“His velocity’s pretty much staying consistent. I think at times movement and location is what’s probably bothering him,” said Francona.

“I thought the breaking ball he had [June 29 against Philadelphia, when he allowed just two runs in 7 2/3 innings] wasn’t there today. Some of the balls were flat through the zone.”

Lackey seemed to agree with his manager, noting that velocity was definitely not the issue Monday.

“Overall, I thought my arm felt pretty good. Probably one of the better [times] it’s felt as far as velocity,” Lackey said. “Just didn’t locate well enough.”

After he struggled through the first two innings, the wheels finally came off for Lackey in the top of the third. He surrendered three straight hits before retiring a batter, then allowed two hits -- including a two-run double by Travis Snider -- before he was removed by Francona amid a shower of boos from the Fenway Faithful.

His only out of the third inning: a bomb from Edwin Encarnacion that Jacoby Ellsbury chased down about a foot from the base of the Green Monster in left-center.

Sporting a league-worst 7.47 ERA and a three-game losing streak, Lackey will have to make some changes to get on the right track. At this point, he said, all he can do is just “continue to work hard.”

“I’ve made a lot of adjustments, kind of on the fly, and hopefully some of those will turn into some results,” he said.

His batterymate, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, attested to Lackey’s work ethic and felt confident that he will turn things around.

“Lack’s the same guy every day. He comes in here and busts his tail, and every game he pitches we know we've got a chance,” Saltalamacchia said.

“He’s just grinding, man. That’s something Lack does every day. He competes and keeps us in the ballgame.”

Lackey most likely will get one more chance to redeem himself before the All-Star break; in the current rotation, his next start would be on July 9 at Fenway against the Baltimore Orioles.