The John Lackey Saga, Now With Tommy John Surgery

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 01: John Lackey #41 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after giving up a two run homer in the sixth inning to Asdrubal Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians on August 1, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

After undergoing a medical examination that revealed a torn UCL, John Lackey has opted for Tommy John Surgery that will wipe out his 2012 season.

Early Tuesday, WEEI ran an article noting that Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey had recently met with world-renowned bearer of bad news, Dr. Lewis Yocum, regarding the condition of his right elbow. Lackey's right elbow, not Yocum's. Nobody cares about Yocum's right elbow. The Red Sox were expecting a "final resolution" to come out of the meeting, and indeed, a final resolution is what we have. The resolution, in a few words?

Tommy John surgery for Lackey
Oct 25 via EchofonFavoriteRetweetReply


The resolution, in more words? From new GM Ben Cherington's press conference:

After more consultation with Dr. Yocum, John has decided to go ahead with Tommy John surgery. So we're waiting on a surgery date. But I talked to him the other day. He's really excited about the future, certainly anxious about the surgery, getting that done and the rehab, but knows that he's a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011. I believe he's going to be a much better pitcher than what he showed in 2011, and we'll look forward to having him as part of this staff, likely in 2013.

Just a week ago, Red Sox fans were given an opening to daydream about Lackey getting traded to the Padres. Now a part of that fantasy will come true, as Lackey most likely won't pitch for the Red Sox in 2012, but he won't be absent because he's gone - he'll be absent because he's rehabbing from a major operation.

Here's the real interesting twist: Lackey went on the disabled list early in the regular season with an elbow injury. At the time, he acknowledged that he'd had an elbow issue for a while. He also missed time with an elbow problem early in 2009. Because of the history of Lackey's elbow, the Red Sox built the following clause into his contract:

2015 club option at Major League minimum salary if Lackey misses significant time with surgery for pre-existing elbow injury in 2010-14

He's now going to miss significant time after undergoing surgery to treat a pre-existing elbow injury. So that 2015 club option at the league minimum will vest, turning Lackey's five-year, $82.5 million contract into a six-year, roughly $83 million contract. For luxury tax purposes, that reduces Lackey's average annual value from $16.5 million to $13.8 million, giving the Red Sox greater flexibility and possibly saving them money.

So it's not all bad. Maybe none of it is bad. Let's say Lackey didn't need to have Tommy John Surgery. Then he'd be coming back in 2012 with nobody's confidence. This way, he saves the team some money, and he gets something repaired that will allow people to think he might be better when he comes back late in 2012, or - more likely - in 2013. Win/win, kind of.

Interestingly, Lackey pitched better after coming off the disabled list this season. In seven starts before, he walked 18 and struck out 19. In 21 starts after, he walked 38 and struck out 89. He still wasn't good, though; he was terrible in September, and he needs to be fixed. It's oddly comforting that Lackey has a significant physical problem, because the alternative would seem a lot more hopeless.

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