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Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Lackey 'felt pretty good' after session

By Chuck Murr

CLEVELAND -- John Lackey threw 40 fastballs without discomfort in the Red Sox bullpen on Tuesday.

The right-hander, sidelined since May 12 with a strained right elbow, said he was encouraged and eager to give it another test soon.

"I felt pretty good and it was a step in the right direction," Lackey said. "I was happy with how I was finishing. I was able to let it go."

Lackey admitted he had pain in the elbow for "a little longer" than his last two starts, when he was touched for 17 earned runs in only 10 2/3 innings in losses to the Angels (11-0 on May 5) and Blue Jays (9-3 on May 11).

"It hurt when I fully extended -- but not today," Lackey reported. Asked if he's experienced anything like this injury in his career, he said, "I'm in my 10th year, so I've had a little of everything."

Manager Terry Francona said that pitching coach Curt Young was encouraged by Lackey's session.

"Curt said the ball was coming out of his hand real nice and easy," Francona said.

Lackey said he will try to throw all his pitches in his next session and is eager to get out on a minor-league rehab assignment and then back into Boston's rotation.

The Red Sox have him penciled in to start on June 5 at home against Oakland.

"I definitely need to face some hitters," he said. "Next time, I want to throw everything, sit down, then get back up again to simulate a game -- then go out somewhere" on rehab assignment.

Lackey said a cortisone shot stopped the swelling in his elbow, and that he went three or four days without even playing catch.

"I only had one shot, but they stuck me in a couple different places," he said.

Planning ahead: Francona said he was tempted to move Carl Crawford into Pedroia's No. 2 spot in the batting order behind leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury, but thought better of it.

Francona said he didn't want three lefties in a row in the lineup, even though Cleveland was starting right-hander Fausto Carmona. Francona was more concerned about facing the Indians' bullpen, where setup man Tony Sipp is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA.

"Sipp has been getting out every lefty in the world," Francona said. " I didn't want to invite that."

Left-handed batters are 1-for-25 (.040) against Sipp this year.

Francona also said he would try to avoid using right-hander Daniel Bard, who worked the previous two games and was the loser Monday night.

"I'll stay away from Bard, even though he said he feels good," Francona said. "But we won't use him.

"He's so good, so durable, but he has such a career ahead of him and we want to watch it with him. It isn't about innings only with him. Some of his are high-level innings and when he goes over an inning, those are the ones you have to look at."

Okajima gives OK: Left-hander Hideki Okajima has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket. The left-hander was designated for assignment on May 19 to clear roster space when lefty Franklin Morales was acquired from the Colorado Rockies.

Okajima went 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in seven relief outings for the Red Sox this year. He burst upon the big-league scene as a 31-year-old rookie in 2007, going 3-2 with five saves and a 2.22 ERA and making the AL All-Star team. In 261 games, all in relief, he has a 17-8 record and 3.11 ERA for Boston.

Late payoff: The Indians are just now reaping the rewards of trading Victor Martinez to the Red Sox in July 2009 for right-handers Justin Masterson and Bryan Price along with lefty Nick Hagadone.

Masterson is a valuable member of Cleveland's rotation, going 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 10 starts.

Hagadone, 25, has been converted to relief. In 14 outings combined at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, he is 3-1 with a 1.82 ERA. He could be a valuable addition to the Indians' bullpen if Cleveland continues its breakneck pace atop the AL Central and needs relief help down the stretch.

Price, 24, was moved to the bullpen a year ago in the minors and is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA at Akron.