MESA, Ariz. — A reporter joked with Joe Maddon Tuesday morning that John Lackey would probably just come out in his first spring start and throw 25 fastballs, to which the Cubs manager laughed and agreed.
That's almost exactly how it played out at Sloan Park Tuesday afternoon in an exhibition against Team Italy (meaning the stats don't count toward official Cactus League stats, which also don't really "count").
Lackey tossed approximately 30 pitches in two innings in his spring debut, throwing only one breaking ball and the rest fastballs.
Since this game didn't count (not that other spring training games do, of course) and because Lackey is the king of one-liners and has been through this song-and-dance in spring training so many times before (15, to be exact), let's just hear the one-of-a-kind 38-year-old break down his own debut:
How did he feel his first time out?
"I felt good," Lackey said. "Obviously, the first one out of the gate, just trying to throw some fastballs and build up the arm strength and it's a good one to keep moving forward on."
Lackey said the first couple starts at this point in the year are always about building up arm strength after a winter off.
"That's pretty much it. Honestly, the first couple times, the pregame warmup is almost more important than what happens in the game. I'm working on things in the 'pen and when you get in the game, just firing some fastballs, trying to get that arm strength going."
Did he analyze his stuff on the radar gun?
*shrugs* "I don't look at the gun in June."
Does he know how many pitches he threw?
"Doesn't matter. Whatever. I got about a month to go before it matters."
So he doesn't know the number of pitches?
"Make something up. Who cares?"
At age 38, the guy who said he would announce his retirement simply by not showing up the next season is still out here to compete.
He said at this point in his career, he enjoys going to team dinners and hanging out in the clubhouse and ragging on guys, but he could do without the shagging of flyballs during batting practice and won't miss the workouts.
"The between starts get harder as you get older," he said. "The workouts and that kinda stuff. But when you're out on the field competing, that's still a lot of fun. The other stuff is a little tougher the older you get. But it's necessary for you to compete at a high level."
He also said he feels better now — after the Tommy John surgery he had in 2011 — than he did before the procedure.
Does he like pitching in exhibition games as the opposition gets geared up to play in the World Baseball Classic?
"Honestly, it's spring training. It doesn't matter who's up there. I kinda got a routine on what I do from my first start, the second start and the last probably two starts before the season, I'll pitch pretty much with everything and then go get 'em."
World Series swag
A pair of World Series boots created a murmur at Cubs camp Tuesday morning:
Cubs players have gotten some new boots: pic.twitter.com/FkJ40l98HE— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) March 7, 2017
As if anybody needed confirmation: Yes, Lackey did get a pair of those boots.
"Of course I did," he said. "I'm not even sure how many pair of boots I have, honestly."
Lackey also has a similar pair after winning the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013.
As for his Cubs World Series ring once he gets that next month, he will not prominently display it. That piece of jewelry will go in a box in his closet...along with his regular wedding ring (he wears a rubber one most of the time, like most athletes due to lifting and on-field activities), the Red Sox championship ring and the 2002 World Series ring with the Angels.
"I got a rubber wedding ring, for goodness' sake. I'm not a huge, flasy kinda guy. It's gonna be awesome to have, for sure. If I'm going to a wedding or I have to put on a tux, I'll wear one of 'em. That's about it."