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The Red Sox have placed pitcher John Lackey on the 15-day DL with a right bicep strain. An MRI performed Sunday on John Lackey‘s right arm revealed an inflammation of the biceps, but fortunately no tear as was initially feared. Lackey had to leave Saturday’s loss at Toronto in the fifth inning, when his surgically repaired throwing arm appeared to give way on a pitch to José Reyes. It was his first start since 2011.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Lackey will miss what would have been his second start, scheduled for Friday in the first game of the upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Alfredo Aceves will start Thursday, in the last game of the series with the Orioles, while Félix Doubront‘s scheduled start has been pushed back to Friday.
Aceves hasn’t started a game for Boston since June 2011. He made four starts that year, going 1-1 with an ERA of 5.14 in those games, compared to 2.61 for the season. In two relief appearances so far in 2013, he has a 10.38 ERA. While his inconsistency and notoriously irascible personality are concerns, Aceves has tended to play better the more innings he’s had to work in, as opposed to last year, when he struggled after being thrust into the closer’s role by the injury to Andrew Bailey.
In any case, the Red Sox should have a backup plan for the off chance that Lackey or any other starter have to miss significant time and Aceves doesn’t perform well or is traded. Of the relievers currently on the active roster, Andrew Miller has the most experience as a starter. In 2011, he started 12 games, posting a 6-3 record with a 5.55 ERA. Although he had some solid outings, his command was a concern, and he seems to have moved to the bullpen for good.
While Clayton Mortensen, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have all started in the past, the Sox’ best bet besides Aceves is currently on the DL. Franklin Morales, recovering from a back injury, pitched an inning during an extended Spring Training game in Fort Myers on Tuesday, and is expected to start playing in minor league games next week. Morales made nine starts last season, and was 3-3 with an ERA of 4.93. There is no timetable for his return to the majors.
If worse came to worst injury-wise, the Sox could potentially turn to 23-year-old Allen Webster, who was impressive this spring with a 1.64 ERA and last Friday pitched five scoreless innings in his first start with AAA Pawtucket. Still, there is no reason to believe that it will come to that yet. Whether or not Lackey will be ready for his next start after Friday’s, tentatively scheduled for next week’s series at Cleveland, remains to be seen. But the news of the MRI is certainly positive, and even if Lackey has to miss more than one start, it doesn’t look like he has any serious lingering effects from the elbow injury that led him to have Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season.