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Lackey set for first game action since '11

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- John Lackey will get a reward for all the hard work he has done to bounce back from Tommy John surgery when he takes the ball for the Red Sox in Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:35 p.m. ET.

The righty will go just one inning, but it's likely one that he will savor. This will be the first time Lackey has pitched in a game for the Red Sox since Sept. 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium.

"For anybody who's gone through Tommy John, you can identify with some of the things he's gone through," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Certainly the rehab can be very lonely. I'm hopeful that John will be able to reflect back on the year-plus that he's worked his tail off to get to the point where he's back in a Major League setting. [Saturday's] a significant day for him, and certainly for us as we form this rotation going through camp."

Not only is Lackey throwing the ball well, but he's doing it with a new-and-improved physique.

"He's felt great physically," Farrell said. "His arm has shown the looseness we're accustomed to seeing with the Angels and really his first year here. I know one thing, he feels really good about himself from a physical standpoint, and it's translated into some confidence right now. [Saturday] begins his progression toward the start of the regular season."

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