After using his full repertoire in a 40-pitch simulated game at Angel Stadium, Lackey got a firm thumbs-up from manager Mike Scioscia, who swung a bat against his ace in the workout.
"John, the way he threw the ball in the sim game, he's ready stuff-wise to go compete in a game," Scioscia said. "We've got him penciled in for two innings, 40 pitches, at [Class A] Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday."
Scioscia, who took a few swings with Lackey wanting to see a left-handed hitter in the batter's box, was grinning when he said, "I thought I had some good at-bats. I just didn't get anything to fall in."
A 19-game winner, American League ERA champion and first-time AL All-Star in 2007, Lackey was upbeat about his upcoming appearance in the California League. He's looking at perhaps three more outings after he goes two innings in his debut as he builds arm strength for his projected May return to the Angels rotation.
"I'll be in the house," Lackey said, grinning, of Thursday night. "I'll probably be supporting a small village."
He was referring to the contributions big-time players have been known to make to farm clubs while on rehab assignments.
Lackey said he'll take it one sure step at a time, knowing Scioscia will want him to be comfortable in the 80- to 85-pitch range before he reclaims his perch in Anaheim.
"At least, I would say, maybe four," he said, asked to guess how many appearances he'll make for Rancho Cucamonga. He doesn't anticipate moving up to Triple-A Salt Lake, where unpredictable, uncomfortable weather can be a problem for rehabbing Major Leaguers.
"I don't feel the need to go to Salt Lake," Lackey said. "I can get it done at Rancho. I'm just basing it on how I feel. I've been here long enough to know if I can get hitters out."
Leading the AL West by one game over the A's heading into Saturday night's game against the Mariners, the Angels have maintained a winning profile without Lackey and co-ace Kelvim Escobar, who is trying to regain strength in his right shoulder after sustaining a tear in his labrum.
"I'm a pretty competitive guy," Lackey said. "The guys have been playing great. We're right where we want to be."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.