ANAHEIM -- The strained triceps Angels right-hander John Lackey sustained before the season is a clearly a thing of the past. The big 6-foot-6 Texan has been nearly untouchable since his return from the disabled list on May 14, and in June, he had one of the best months of his career, going 5-0 with a 1.16 ERA. Lackey was honored for his performance in June on Wednesday when he was named the American League Pitcher of the Month.
Lackey won all five of his decisions and never allowed more than two earned runs in any of his starts. He also pitched at least seven innings in each of those starts. Even Lackey has been somewhat surprised by the way he has pitched since returning from a shoulder injury. "Maybe a little bit surprised," Lackey said on Thursday. "I definitely knew I was ready to go and prepared. I wanted to come out and pitch well from the get go and make every start count because I missed several to begin the season." But his battery mate, catcher Jeff Mathis, who has caught four of his last six starts, said on June 10 that he wasn't surprised by the way Lackey has dominated since his return. "He was injured but he was keeping himself in shape," Mathis said. "Surprised isn't the right word. We knew he'd be ready." The 29-year-old allowed a total of five earned runs on 23 hits with 34 strikeouts and seven walks in 38 2/3 innings. His best start came on June 29, when he pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dodgers while striking out a season-high nine batters. He also defeated the Rays' Scott Kazmir and the Mets' Johan Santana in consecutive starts on June 11 and June 17, respectively. The Angels' ace said he enjoys going up against team's No. 1 starters. "It's fun," Lackey said. "You take it as a challenge if you're the guy who heads up the rotation. You have to want to challenge yourself and take a chance to win in those situations." Lackey will be awarded with a specially-designed trophy to commemorate his Pitcher of the Month performance. He has won the award once in his career, in July, 2006. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez was also considered for the honor, as he had 11 saves and a 1.59 ERA in 11 1/3 innings pitched. Others receiving votes were Chicago's Mark Buehrle, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, Oakland's Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer, and Kansas City's Joakim Soria.
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.