C.J. Nitkowski: ‘Lackey Probably Gives The Cardinals The Biggest Boost’
Former Red Sox pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey – both of whom were dealt last Thursday before the trade deadline – won their first start with their new clubs this past weekend.
Lester allowed three runs on nine hits in 6.2 innings in Oakland’s 8-3 win over Kansas City on Saturday, while Lackey allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings in a 3-2 win over Milwaukee on Sunday. While Lackey’s numbers were a little better, both pitchers had to be relieved to get a win in their first start, especially playing at home in front of their new fans.
“When you go to a new team, I don’t care who you are: That first game out, you want to make an impression,” FOX Sports 1, MLB Network Radio and CBS Sports Radio analyst C.J. Nitkowski told Jody McDonald, who was filling in as host of The John Feinstein Show. “You want your teammates – I don’t want to say accept you because they know who you are and (that) you have a resume – but you always want to come out that first day and show them what you got. I thought both guys threw well for the most part. We know what these guys are going to do for both of their teams and what they’re going to add.”
Nitkowski, in fact, believes that Lackey will have a bigger impact in St. Louis than Lester will in Oakland.
“I think Lackey probably gives the Cardinals the biggest boost,” Nitkowski explained. “Not that he’s better than Lester – Lester is definitely the better pitcher – (but) the Oakland A’s are already really good, and their playoff destination is probably set. The St. Louis Cardinals are in kind of a dog fight in (the NL Central), and they have some issues with Michael Wacha being hurt. I think John Lackey was a tremendous pick-up for the Cardinals and will have a bigger effect on that team specifically than maybe Lester will on the A’s.”
Nitkowski, who played for eight major league teams, confirmed that changing squads – especially for a pitcher – can definitely take some getting used to.
“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s definitely that adjustment with your catcher. That’s a big one. Getting on the same page takes time. That’s why spring training is so important. You can talk about it pre-game. You can talk about it before you actually go out there. But the rhythm of the game sometimes can be very important. That’s why guys sometimes end up having personal catchers.”
Nitkowski saw this up close and personal on Saturday, when he was calling a game between the Giants and Mets. Jake Peavy, who was making his second start for San Francisco since being acquired from Boston, was clearly not on the same page with Buster Posey.
“You could see there were times when they were having communication issues,” Nitkowski said. “Peavy stepped off a couple of times trying to tell him what he (wanted) to do in that situation – location, that kind of thing.”
Peavy allowed four runs in seven innings in a 4-2 loss. He is 0-2 in two starts with the Giants.
“It’s a process,” Nitkowski said. “It does not happen within a start or two unless you’re a really, really simple guy with a simple repertoire. For most guys, the conversations happen and you hope the adjustments come quickly, but a lot of times, it can take a little bit longer than you like.”