John Lackey pitched well in his first start with the Red Sox since late September of 2011, but he didn't get to finish his performance thanks to an arm injury. Given he underwent Tommy John surgery over 18 months ago, you could be forgiven for feeling like something had gone awry in his recovery that would cause him to miss significantly more time. The early returns from his MRI are in, however, and they paint a more optimistic picture.
Lackey suffered a mid-biceps strain, and there is no structural damage attached to that diagnosis according to team president Larry Lucchino. You can exhale, because that means Lackey will likely just miss a handful of starts in order to rest and see how his arm feels, rather than end up back on the disabled list for massive chunk of the season because of a setback in his elbow. He's not entirely out of the woods, but probability is at least, for now, more in his favor.
With the off day on Tuesday, the Red Sox can simply skip Lackey's spot in the rotation, with Jon Lester pitching again on Friday on regular rest rather than on Saturday with an extra day. If Lackey ends up needing to go on the disabled list -- a very likely scenario given the few weeks of rest a bicep strain requires -- Boston can either use Alfredo Aceves as a spot starter for the start after that, or call up someone like Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket to take a turn in the bigs.
The Sox play 19-straight games and don't have another off day until April 29 following Tuesday's break, so someone will be needed, as they can't just keep skipping Lackey's turn. If Aceves keeps pitching in relief like he has during the last three months of baseball -- he posted an 8.42 ERA in August and September of 2012, and has already given up five runs in 4-1/3 innings in 2013 -- then it might just end up being Webster or one of the other minor-league hurlers getting the call.
This isn't the final word on Lackey's bicep just yet, as the Sox are getting his MRI "further interpreted" in the words of Peter Abraham. The fact that there is no structural damage is a huge positive however, and means that, barring some kind of surprise, he should be back relatively soon, restoring the rotation to its planned arrangement.
[Update 11:14 am] Further clarification has come: Lackey only had inflammation, and no tear, according to manager John Farrell. This means that the injury is minor enough that it isn't even a given Lackey ends up on the disabled list, depending on how his bicep responds to anti-inflammatory treatment and the rest afforded him by a skipped start. We'll know more when the Red Sox and Lackey do, basically, but early signs are positive.