BOSTON -- John Lackey was finally back on the Fenway Park mound on Saturday afternoon, albeit in a brief batting practice session against teammates Daniel Nava and Ivan De Jesus. Still, it was a moment to relish for Lackey and the Red Sox, signaling a key step in the right-hander's return from Tommy John surgery.
It was the first time Lackey faced hitters since last season.
"John threw 15 pitches today to hitters," said manager Bobby Valentine. "First step in a new world for him after a real hard summer of rehab. Better than how he looked was how he felt. He said he felt great afterwards, and that's what's really important."
How did Lackey look?
"He looked OK, considering it's the first time," Valentine said. "His breaking ball was really good, which is usually the last thing. He's been working on that less. He just didn't have real good control of his two-seamer."
Considering that Lackey knew from the start that his 2012 season would basically be all about rehab, he has impressed those around him with his work ethic.
"From the first day of Spring Training, when I saw John in the weight room, I was impressed with his work," Valentine said. "He works after games late. He's here religiously. The only day I haven't seen him working out, he had to make a move in southern California, like one day. It's really been very impressive."
The hope is that Lackey be a key member in Boston's rotation next season.
"I wish I could have that little magic crystal ball that told me the future," said Valentine. "If he continues to work hard all winter, which I believe he will, he'll give us and himself the best chance. Now whether or not it has to be Opening Day, I can tell you right now, I don't think that is necessarily a goal. To get him back healthy would be the key -- 100 percent."
Lackey will throw another round of batting practice in the coming days. The hope is that he will pitch in a competitive situation before the season ends, perhaps in the instructional league or maybe even in a short outing for the Red Sox.
Doubront hopeful team doesn't shut him down
BOSTON -- Despite logging a professional-high 134 2/3 innings this season and being mired in a six-week slump, lefty Felix Doubront was emphatic to reporters on Saturday that he is not fatigued.
After Doubront suffered his latest rough start on Friday against the Blue Jays, manager Bobby Valentine said the club would at least discuss shutting him down for the season.
Doubront, who allowed Toronto five runs on six hits over four-plus frames, wants no part of that, and while Valentine said no decision had been made, he didn't necessarily sound in favor of it.
"You'd have to consider it, but if he comes into the next season and he gets to this high water mark and then everyone starts to think about shutting him down again, it's probably best if he feels good to let that bar be as high as possible so he can extend it," said Valentine. "As long as he's not going to be injured. You take that from him and the medical room and we'll see."
Doubront felt that declining confidence -- and perhaps some concentration lapses -- had played the biggest role in his recent slide, which has consisted of an 0-4 record and 8.27 ERA in seven starts.
"I think what is affecting me now is my confidence or something like that," Doubront said. "It's not because I'm tired. I feel good, my body feels good."
What's the difference between April and May -- when Doubront was arguably Boston's best starting pitcher -- to now?
"I'd say control," Doubront said. "A couple things, but control is one. Sometimes it's good -- my mechanics are good -- but I need to finish the hitters. That's most important."
Dealing with sore back, Salty gets a rest
BOSTON -- After leaving Friday's game with back spasms, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not in the Red Sox's starting lineup on Saturday.
"Salty is going to rest all day today and not take batting practice," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He had a pretty good spasm and we talked about the situation, and the situation is, 'Let's make sure it's perfect before he gets back in September.' But he wants to play, so it will probably only be a day or two."
The back hasn't been a recurring issue for Saltalamacchia.
"Not many times, no," said Valentine. "He had a little situation, but I'd have to think all the West Coast travel and then coming back, he's a big guy in those [airplane] seats."
Saltalamacchia has caught 85 games for the Red Sox this season while serving as the designated hitter seven times.