Reporting from Boston -- John Lackey does not seem bitter about his departure from the Angels after 7 ½ years because they "definitely made a run to try to keep me, for sure," he said.
But the former Angels ace, who will face his old teammates for the first time in Fenway Park on Wednesday night, couldn't help but notice some irony in the Angels' failure to match the Boston Red Sox's bid for his services last winter.
"It is different," Lackey said, when asked about the Angels' tendency to let their own veterans leave as free agents. "The way they preach the team game, the way you're supposed to give it up for the team -- that's a little suspect.
"You're supposed to give up for the team; then when it comes time, they might not want to give it up for you. But I was prepared for that. That's the nature of the game today."
Lackey, 31, signed a five-year, $82.5-million deal with Boston. The Angels' final offer was four years and $60 million.
After the right-hander missed the first six weeks of 2008 and 2009 because of elbow injuries, the Angels refused to go more than four years for Lackey, even though he was their ace for four years.
So, Lackey went the way of Francisco Rodriguez, Garret Anderson, Troy Percival, Troy Glaus, Bengie Molina et al out the door.
"Their track record speaks for itself," Lackey said. "I lost so many teammates over there, guys who went to other places. It prepares you for these things."
The Angels haven't exactly thrived in Lackey's absence. Their starters entered Tuesday with a 5.24 earned-run average, second-worst in the American League.
Lackey, who is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts, said the transition to Boston "has been a lot easier than I thought it would be." The fact he is the No. 3 starter behind Josh Beckett and Jon Lester has eased the pressure.
"It's nice to relax a bit," Lackey said. "We have several guys who have done it, and it's fun to learn from different guys."
But doesn't Lackey, who prided himself on being the "lead dog in the rotation," as Angels Manager Mike Scioscia called him, miss that label?
"Whatever," Lackey said. "I know what I am. What matters is being in the playoffs and pitching in meaningful games."
Lackey's Angels career ended on a bit of a sour note, when he felt he was pulled too early from Game 5 of the AL Championship Series against the New York Yankees last October.
When Scioscia came to the mound with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a game the Angels won, 7-6, Lackey could be seen mouthing the words, "This is my game!"
Did he shut the door on the Angels that night?
"No," said Lackey, who won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie. "We talked about that after the game. That had no bearing on the off-season. I respect Scioscia a ton, and I think he respects me. He gave me the ball in big games. What more could you want?"
The right stuff
The Angels are convinced Joe Saunders is physically sound, but there is at some concern that his awful start -- he is 1-5 with a 7.04 ERA after Monday night's loss -- is taking a toll mentally.
"It's always in the back of your mind -- you don't want a guy to doubt his stuff," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "He's mentally strong. Once he breaks through this, it will be a huge learning experience for him.
"He has to learn what he can control, what he does best, and that's going out there and getting ahead, controlling counts, letting his defense work for him. He has to really, really believe in his stuff. His stuff is really good."
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