Setting aside how things unraveled after he departed, last night was another great one for Chicago Cubs righty John Lackey. He didn’t give up an earned run in his 6.2 innings of work, put the Cubs in a very good position to win, and did what he was supposed to do.
In total, Lackey allowed just four hits, one walk, and one unearned run, and he struck out five. The outing lowered his season line to 3.41/3.72/3.73, and saw him reach 2.8 WAR already (tied for 11th most in the NL).
The only rub, of course, was that Lackey was pulled mid-batter in that 7th inning after showing very visible signs of discomfort:
After the game, manager Joe Maddon said that Lackey’s shoulder stiffened up, and he wasn’t going to let the righty talk his way into staying in the game. Maddon would not commit to Lackey making his next start and the team will know more after today’s off-day (Cubs.com).
For his part, Lackey said that the tightness first popped up after he got loose in the bullpen on Thursday when the Cubs game went well into extra innings (it was the second time in two weeks that Lackey had gotten up to get loose in the bullpen in case he was needed in relief).
He doesn’t seem concerned, though:
Hopefully Lackey is right, and with a little rest, he’ll be fine for his next start. With the off-day today, the Cubs might be able to give him a couple extra days, too, depending on how the rotation sorts out after tomorrow’s doubleheader (Trevor Cahill will be the extra “starter” for the day).
You probably noticed that Lackey’s fastball velocity dropped a couple ticks in the 5th through 7th inning as his pitch count got up there, but that shouldn’t necessarily worry you – that’s been typical for him this year.
So, all in all, not the worst outcome available when the trainer comes out to remove a wincing pitcher mid-at-bat. Still, shoulders make you nervous. They just do. Whether it’s “pain” or “discomfort” or “stiffness,” it doesn’t take much in the shoulder to negatively impact performance, if a guy can keep going at all.
Fingers crossed that we find out tomorrow that Lackey is expected to make his next start. Fingers crossed even tighter that, whatever happens with this shoulder tightness, Lackey is feeling good to go by the end of September. He remains very important for the Cubs in the postseason.