The results might have been mixed on the field, but the bottom line was that Angels right-hander John Lackey felt good in his first rehabilitation assignment for the Quakes at the Epicenter on Thursday night.
The presence of Lackey wasn’t enough, as Bakersfield downed the Quakes 6-4 before 5,225 fans. It was the ninth loss in the last 10 games for the Quakes (7-14).
Lackey threw 40 pitches, 29 for strikes in the two-inning appearance as in his return from a strained triceps muscle he suffered during spring training. He struck out five of the nine batters he faced and walked none.
He did allow three hits, including a home run to right field by Bakersfield third baseman John Whittleman on a 3-1fastball, leading off the second inning.
“It was a fastball,” Lackey said. “He wouldn’t have hit my breaking ball.”
Lackey said there were plenty of positive signs with Thursday’s performance, during which he threw all of his pitches.
“When I first was injured, throwing my changeup was tough,” he said. “But it felt good tonight. … My stuff was fine.”
He admitted that how he feels today is important in his recovery.
The next step for Lackey is to pitch again for the Quakes on Tuesday at Lancaster, likely with a pitch limit of 55 pitches, during which he’d like to throw more changeups. He is also scheduled to make a third rehabilitation start for the Quakes on May 4 at the Epicenter.
“I need to build up my endurance. I need to get stretched out,” he said. “That will be a big step.”
He said he did not know how hard he threw but that his velocity was down.
Lackey’s appearance Thursday was his first in the California League since he went 6-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 15 starts in 2000 for Lake Elsinore, then an Angels affiliate. It’s also the first rehabilitation appearance for Lackey in his career since making his major league debut in 2002.
“It feels like spring training, with the size of the ball park and the size of the crowd,” he said.
Lackey left the game trailing 1-0 but the Quakes immediately rallied to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second, including a home run by Drew Toussaint. Sean O’Sullivan (2-2), the Quakes’ originally scheduled starter, pitched well for four innings, but not for five.
“He pitched well,” Quakes manager Ever Magallanes said. “He had a 3-2 pitch that looked like a strike, but loaded the bases.”
Marcus Lemon then delivered a three-run triple in the five-run seventh as Bakersfield took a 6-2 lead.
The Quakes rallied for two run in the eighth on a two-run homer by Anthony Norman and had the tying runs in scoring position.
But Clayton Hamilton (second save) got Toussaint to ground out and struck out Brian Walker to end the threat. He retired the Quakes in order in the ninth.
“I liked the way we battled tonight,” Magallanes said.