BOSTON—John Lackey will undergo reconstructive elbow surgery and miss the 2012 season, the latest setback in his rough year with the Boston Red Sox.
General manager Ben Cherington made the announcement Tuesday during a news conference at which he was introduced as the successor to Theo Epstein, who left to become president of baseball operations with the Chicago Cubs.
Lackey, a right-hander, was 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA in the second year of a five-year, $82.5 million contract. The Boston Globe reported after the season that he and fellow starters Josh Beckett and Jon Lester drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse during games in which they were not pitching.
Cherington said the Tommy John surgery would be performed, probably by noted orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum, but he did not know when. Lackey had elbow soreness during the season and had an MRI in May or June, Cherington said. He had another one after the season and was examined recently by Yocum in Los Angeles.
"John Lackey pitched through circumstances this year that I don't think any of us in this room can fully understand," Cherington said, "and he got beat up for it a little bit along the way. This guy was dealing with some stuff both on the field and off the field that were really difficult.
"I thought he showed tremendous toughness pitching through that."
Late in the season, Lackey filed for divorce. His wife has breast cancer.
In May, after a bad outing, Lackey said, "Everything in my life sucks right now, to be honest with you."
Fans and the media were critical of his pitching. But Cherington hopes Lackey can be a much improved pitcher in 2013.
"I talked to him the other day and he's really excited about the future, certainly anxious about the surgery and getting that done and the rehab," Cherington said, "but (he) knows that he's a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011 and I believe he's going to be a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011 and we look forward to having him as part of the staff, likely in 2013."
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."
Why is the operation so prevalent among Red Sox pitchers?
"There are things we can do to help at least push that off for as long as possible. We did that with John," Cherington said, "but it's a hard thing to prevent because of the nature of the elbow joint and what happens to it over a long period of time when you're putting that kind of strain on it."