Lackey's solid start a tuneup for October

Right-hander: 'I'm ready to go for whatever is next'

Lackey's solid start a tuneup for October

PITTSBURGH -- John Lackey might have reached 200 innings this season if he hadn't been on the disabled list because of tightness in his right shoulder. The Cubs right-hander expects to make up the difference next month.

"I'm going to get to 200," said Lackey, who is at 188 1/3 innings for the season after pitching five innings Tuesday night in the Cubs' 6-4 victory over the Pirates.

The Cubs have yet to announce their rotation for the National League Division Series, but Lackey will be among the group.

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"He's thrown a lot of innings. He's pitched extremely well," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I think he's been really good."

Statistically, it has been one of Lackey's better years. He finished 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA in 29 starts and struck out 180. He also has a career-low WHIP of 1.06.

Not bad for a 37-year-old pitcher.

"It's probably one of the better ones of my career," Lackey said of his season. "If you look at things besides wins and losses, and some of the smaller numbers, it's probably the best I've ever done."

The Cubs took advantage of their large lead in the NL Central and placed Lackey on the disabled list from Aug. 19-Sept. 4 because of tightness in his right shoulder. He didn't like being sidelined.

"I'm never going to say DL time will help," Lackey said. "I want to make my starts. I'll never say that. If it gives me a little extra energy here maybe in the next month, I guess it could be a little bit of a positive."

Tuesday's outing was a final tuneup for games that really matter.

"I think from his perspective, and I don't want to speak for him, but he wanted to make sure he's healthy right now, and I believe he is," Maddon said. "I'm looking at the [radar] gun, and when he wants to get on it, the numbers are there. The break on the breaking ball was very good. A lot of changeups, I like that."

The goal was to have Lackey throw 90 pitches over six innings, but his pitch count reached 93 after five, and that was enough.

"He's coming into the postseason well rested," Maddon said. "We just have to keep these guys sharp."

"I'm ready to go for whatever is next," Lackey said.

Maddon may ask the right-hander to throw a simulated game since the Cubs have a long layoff before the NLDS starts on Oct. 7 at Wrigley Field against the winner of the Wild Card Game.

"I don't know about sim games," Lackey said. "I can throw bullpens and be just fine. I don't need to see somebody up there. I know how to throw it over the plate."

He does. And that's why the Cubs wanted to sign him last offseason. So did a few other teams. Not only did he get his 11th win Tuesday, but the Cubs picked up No. 101 for the season. Was Lackey surprised this team has reached that mark?

"Not really," he said. "I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It's all here."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.