Angels ace pitcher John Lackey is expected to rejoin his team soon after being on the disabled list with strained triceps since March 21.
Many reports make it seem like fans should not be worried, but after personally watching Big John pitch in the Class A minors yesterday, I think there might be some cause for concern.
Lackey came to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes last night to pitch his first rehabilitation game. Though Lackey was going to be limited to only 40 pitches, I still felt it was worth it to attend the game Thursday so I could watch a major league pitcher rock the minor leaguers.
While the 6-foot-6 Lackey looked pretty ridiculous in a Quakes uniform, he did appear to look strong warming up. During the two innings he threw, however, hitters from the Bakersfield Blaze made good contact including a one solo home run over the right field wall.
This is in no way to say that John looked horrible. Lackey struck out five of the nine batters, gave up three hits and only the one run.
Friends who joined me said that Lackey wasn't going to be giving 100 percent, as it was just a rehab outing and did not actually matter. I do agree that what we saw was probably not Lackey giving his best effort, but knowing that I still didn't leave the stadium feeling confident.
Lackey seemed like he was rushing his pitches and batters were easily squaring up with the ball. Lackey's pitches also did not have much movement. While there was no radar gun, he didn't seem to be throwing much heat.
The pitcher for the Blaze seemed to be throwing noticeably faster, and I heard many in the crowd comment on how good he looked.
I also heard fans discuss their disappointment in Lackey's performance and that they had expected a stronger showing.
If yesterday's appearance is to act as a barometer for John's progress toward returning in May as scheduled, I hope pitching coach Mike Butcher will give Lackey a little bit more time to recuperate.
While the Angels need Lackey in the heart of May as they face the White Sox, Dodgers and Blue Jays, they shouldn't rush him back into the game.
One of last years liability pitchers, Ervin Santana, has stepped up in a big way and is pitching consistently in the upper 90s. Jon Garland and Joe Saunders have also been pitching well in the absence of starters Lackey and Kelvim Escobar.
I would rather wait a bit longer for John to come back than risk him coming back too soon and losing him for a larger part of the season.
John Lackey needs to be able to cause a bit more of a tremor with the Quakes in Rancho before ascending back to the Angels in Anaheim.