He did not do it with class. It was not a gritty performance where he sucked it up for the pen and the good of the team. John Lackey was simply terrible, to the point where his spot in the rotation should come into question.
Uh, yeah. An 8.01 ERA in the middle of May will usually do that, regardless of the starter's identity.
Thanks to an off-day, Lackey's next scheduled start isn't until next Tuesday night against the Orioles, at Fenway Park. That gives management ... gears inside head turning furiously ... five full days to figure out something else.
Tim Wakefield is the obvious option. Before last night's debacle, Lackey's ERA over these last two seasons was 4.76; Wakefield's was 5.39, so maybe it's not so obvious that Wakefield's actually the better pitcher. But we remember what we've seen most recently, and what we've seen most recently is that John Lackey might be the worst starting pitcher in the major leagues. Definitely the worst pitcher in the major leagues who's making $15.25 million this season.
And don't think that $15.25 million doesn't matter. That kind of money leads to greater organizational patience, but it may also lead to greater organizational angst. Not to mention angst in the stands. It's not real hard to imagine what Fenway Park will sound like next Tuesday night, if the Orioles drive Lackey to cover in the fourth or fifth inning.
Anyway, we've run through this exercise before, but the Red Sox don't have any attractive options in the minors. Andrew Miller has a 2.45 ERA, but the control-challenged reclamation project also has more walks than strikeouts. You can imagine how that would play in the American League. Pawtucket's only real pitching prospect, among the starters at least, is 24-year-old Kyle Weiland, a converted college closer in just his third full pro season. He's pitched well this spring, but hasn't been overpowering and the Red Sox are generally cautious with their young starters.
It's way, way, way too early to give up on Lackey for long. For one thing, he pitched well in the second half last season. For another, the Red Sox still owe him nearly $60 million.
My guess: Lackey goes on the DL very soon, Wakefield takes over for a spell, and everybody hopes that a little rest will make everything all better.