Red Sox notebook

Lackey staying under control

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 1, 2010

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The statistics suggest John Lackey is having control problems. He is averaging 4.4 walks per nine innings, the highest rate of his career and two walks greater than last season.

He’s also averaging two fewer strikeouts per nine innings (5.1) than he did last season.

But Lackey, who is scheduled to start tonight against the Oakland Athletics, said he is not concerned.

“A lot of people are asking me about it. But it’s no big deal,’’ he said. “I’ve looked at some of those walks and they weren’t really walks. I’ve gone back and looked. My control is not as bad as it seems.’’

Lackey also has pitched around certain hitters, a tactic many veteran pitchers embrace.

But there is no denying his performance in recent weeks needs improvement. Lackey is 2-2 in his last four starts with a 6.29 ERA. In 24 1/3 innings, he has allowed 31 hits (four of them home runs) and 16 walks.

The Red Sox are only 5-5 in games he has started. More was expected after Lackey signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal in December.

“I need to pitch better,’’ said Lackey, who overall is 5-3 with a 4.84 ERA. “But I’m going to be OK. I’m not worried about it.’’

Perhaps that confidence was born of knowing his history with the Athletics. Lackey is 16-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 29 career starts against Oakland.

Turning back the clock
A hot month of May left David Ortiz with a .348 on-base percentage and a .581 slugging percentage.

That .929 OPS is the highest Ortiz has had since he ended the 2007 season at 1.066.

Among primary designated hitters with at least 150 plate appearances this season, Ortiz has the highest OPS. His 11 home runs trail only Vladimir Guerrero of Texas, who has 12. Ortiz is third with 31 RBIs.

Ortiz also has regained much of the personality he shuttered in April, taking off his headphones and again becoming a boisterous figure in the clubhouse.

“He’s a lot like his old self,’’ second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “Those first few weeks were tough on him. But he bounced back.’’

Ortiz will start June riding an eight-game hitting streak. He is 10 for his past 26 with six extra-base hits and 10 RBIs.

Market for Lowell
It’s June 1 and Mike Lowell is still a member of the Red Sox. But for how much longer?

The revitalization of Ortiz has left Lowell with little role. He has had only 17 plate appearances since May 12, starting three games. Beyond pinch hitting, he has little use as a bench player and has complained about his lack of playing time.

One trade possibility could be the Los Angeles Angels, who lost first baseman Kendry Morales to a broken left leg during a celebration mishap Saturday. He is not expected to return until late in the season, if then.

The Red Sox could try to interest the Angels in Lowell, who has started two games at first this season. The Sox would have to pick up much of the $8 million Lowell has remaining on his contract. But obtaining even a mid-level prospect or two would be better than simply releasing Lowell.

A number of teams could be shopping a first baseman, including the Astros (Lance Berkman), Orioles (Ty Wigginton), and White Sox (Paul Konerko). Or the Angels could look at free agents Carlos Delgado and Jermaine Dye.

Lowell also could be of interest to the Rangers, the team that agreed to trade for him in December. Lowell remained with the Red Sox when a physical revealed a torn ligament in his right thumb.

Van Every traded
The Red Sox traded outfielder Jonathan Van Every back to the Pirates, getting Single A catcher Josue Peley in return.

Van Every played in 21 games for the Red Sox after being acquired from Pittsburgh April 24. He was 4 of 19 (.211). The Sox designated him for assignment May 22.

Peley, 22, has hit .202 with one home run in parts of four seasons in the Pirates’ organization.

Tough test
The Athletics have finished above .500 once since 2006. But they are 20-18 against the Sox over the last four years . . . Pedroia, who had Sunday off, is hitless in 13 at-bats and is only 9 of 63 (.143) with two RBIs in his last 16 games. “It can’t hurt at this point,’’ he said of the time off . . . Marco Scutaro, again the leadoff hitter with Jacoby Ellsbury back on the disabled list, has eight hits in his last 17 at-bats, boosting his average to .269 . . . Red Sox relievers have allowed five runs on 13 hits over their last 22 1/3 innings and have struck out 17 . . . Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield hosted a golf tournament, poker party, and auction yesterday to benefit the Pitching In For Kids charity.

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