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BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher John Lackey will need Tommy John surgery and will likely miss the entire 2012 season, new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said during his introductory press conference on Tuesday.
Lackey recently received an MRI and was examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles, and it was decided the pitcher would undergo the procedure. A date for the surgery has not been set.
"John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that I don't think any of us can fully understand, and he got beat up for it a little bit," Cherington said. "This guy was dealing with stuff both on the field and off the field that were very difficult, and he showed tremendous toughness pitching through that."
Early in the season, Lackey experienced tightness in his right elbow, underwent an MRI and was placed on the disabled list. Cherington explained that the results from that MRI didn't show much change from the original one Lackey had before the Red Sox signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million contract prior to the 2010 season.
So Lackey and the Red Sox decided to take a conservative approach through rehab to deal with the injury.
Lackey finished the first half of the season with a 6-8 record and a 6.84 ERA. After going 7-1 over nine decent starts in July and August, he staggered through the end of the season as part of the Red Sox's well-documented September collapse.
"He came back and pitched pretty effectively for a while, and his stuff came back for a period of time after that," Cherington said. "Toward the end of the year it began bothering him a little bit more. He made that last start in New York and actually pitched pretty well but was battling it."
When the season ended, Lackey was sent back to Los Angeles to be examined by Yocum and had another MRI taken. After Yocum compared the two MRIs, it was decided Lackey would have the procedure.
"That (MRI) showed some additional change and based on a combination of the symptoms, the physical exam with Yocum and the new MRI, Yocum felt like it was time to consider surgery and John agreed," Cherington said.
Lackey is signed through 2014, but the Red Sox have a club option for 2015 at the league minimum if he misses significant time during the length of the contract.
"It's based on days missed, it's not based on a specific surgery," Cherington said. "We'll see what happens next year."
Cherington said he spoke with Lackey recently and he's excited about the future and eager to have the surgery.
"He knows he's a lot better pitcher than he showed in 2011, and I believe he's going to be a lot better pitcher than what he showed in 2011," Cherington said. "We'll look forward to having him as part of the staff in 2013."
Lackey's tough year extended beyond the field as he and his wife, who is battling breast cancer, filed for divorce. Lackey also was at the center of reports of Red Sox starting pitchers drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games in which they were not playing.
The usual rehabilitation period from Tommy John surgery is at least 12 months.
Lackey will be the third Red Sox pitcher to undergo the operation this year. Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka had it on June 10, one day after lefty reliever Rich Hill had the operation.
Matsuzaka could be ready by the middle of next season, the last of his $52 million contract. The Red Sox also paid $51.1 million to his team in Japan, the Seibu Lions, for the right to sign him.
Cherington said Matsuzaka is in Fort Myers, Fla., the Red Sox spring training home.
"He's throwing," Cherington said. "He's in really good shape, looking forward to next year. He'll have a chance to pitch for us again next year, but not on opening day, but certainly at some point."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. The Associated Press contributed material to this report.