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Next game, not next year, on Lackey's mind

Three-time World Series-champion starter entering 15th MLB season
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Retired catcher David Ross may be on "Dancing with the Stars," but when John Lackey decides he's ready to walk away from the game, don't expect to see him doing the cha-cha-cha on TV.

"He's doing everything possible," Lackey said Thursday about his former teammate. "I don't think the dude said 'no' to anything. He's enjoying himself for sure."

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MESA, Ariz. -- Retired catcher David Ross may be on "Dancing with the Stars," but when John Lackey decides he's ready to walk away from the game, don't expect to see him doing the cha-cha-cha on TV.

"He's doing everything possible," Lackey said Thursday about his former teammate. "I don't think the dude said 'no' to anything. He's enjoying himself for sure."

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And Lackey's post-career plans?

"There will be no retirement tour," Lackey said. "I just won't show up the next year."

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The 38-year-old right-hander is entering his 15th season and second with the Cubs. He'll make his 2017 spring debut on Tuesday against Team Italy. He certainly has experience in terms of what to expect in post-World Series seasons, as the three-time champion also won it all in '02 with the Angels and '13 with the Red Sox.

"I start throwing later in the offseason, but you still have to keep your body in shape and do the same workouts," Lackey said of his post-championship offseason. "Just give the arm a little extra rest."

Video: WS2016 Gm7: Hendricks discusses learning from Lackey

The 2016 season was the 10th in which Lackey totaled at least 188 innings. He was the only Cubs starter to go on the disabled list last year, missing time from mid-August to early September because of a right shoulder strain. Until the time he was on the DL, Lackey felt as good as he's ever been.

"I had to warm up a couple times in extra innings, and that didn't help," Lackey said of two regular-season games when he threw in the bullpen but eventually wasn't needed to pitch in relief. "That ended up getting me. I wished that wouldn't have happened."

Manager Joe Maddon took the blame for that.

"He was throwing good last year until we attempted to bring him in a couple games warming up," Maddon said. "It probably impacted him before he said something about it. I know he's not going to like to be taken out of some games earlier, but he needs to be in order to finish strongly this year and possibly throw next year.

"I believe there's a lot of good baseball left in him. I think last year, I screwed it up by permitting him to warm up."

Lackey went 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five September starts after returning from the disabled list, and finished the season 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 29 games. Did he ever get back to feeling 100 percent?

"I probably never got back to 100 percent, but I was good enough to compete," Lackey said.

Video: CHC@PHI: Lackey tosses seven scoreless innings in win

He enters this year aiming at 200 innings again -- "That's what I've been doing for 15 years," he said -- and not sure what the future holds. Neither the 2003 Angels nor the '14 Red Sox were able to follow up their championship seasons with another title. Could the Cubs?

"It's hard to win one, much less win two," Lackey said. "I think [the Cubs are] unique with the youth in this room. We'll have a lot of guys who are still young, still hungry, and not tired, I guess."

He'll be a free agent after this year, but he's not looking too far ahead.

"I'm trying to be good my next start," Lackey said. "Whatever happens next year is kind of, 'Who cares?' We'll worry about that when we get there.

"I feel great. I'm just playing this year -- see what happens at the end of the year. If I still feel good, keep playing."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, John Lackey