Lackey, Masterson jumping right into division fray

Lackey, Masterson jumping right into division fray

ST. LOUIS -- As John Lackey sat inside a small room underneath Busch Stadium on Friday, not long after he had arrived via a rainy flight from Boston, a smile crept across his face.

The 35-year-old right-hander, traded at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on Thursday for the first time in his career, was asked about his desire to pitch in the National League, something many pitchers hope to try before their careers come to a close.

"There might have been a thought or two about that," Lackey said with a laugh. "I think I'd rather face a pitcher than David Ortiz, yeah. I think that was intriguing, for sure."

Acquired for right fielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly to bolster the rotation, Lackey will make his NL debut on Sunday. He will follow Justin Masterson, who will make his first start in the NL on Saturday after being acquired from Cleveland on Wednesday in exchange for Minor League outfielder James Ramsey.

From the onset of their arrival, the two veterans will get a sense of the reason why they were acquired as they face the NL Central-leading Brewers.

"We're excited to watch them," manager Mike Matheny said. "We've seen both of them [pitch] very good in the past. We've seen Masterson be one of those cannonball-style sinkerball pitchers who can get a lot of those ground balls for you and early outs. Lackey, he's no secret. We've watched him from the wrong side too many times and realize that this guy can be a big-game pitcher and has been. He is a top-shelf pitcher."

That "wrong side" came last October, in Game 6 of the World Series, when Lackey surrendered one run over 6 2/3 innings to clinch the title for the Red Sox. When Lackey was a rookie, in 2002, he clinched the World Series for the Angels in Game 7.

Being called a big-game pitcher isn't necessarily something Lackey seeks, although his experience is one key reason the Cardinals dealt for him.

"I guess it's better than the other way," he said of the moniker. "You want your teammates to think they've got a chance when they're going into a big one with you. I've been fortunate enough to win a few [titles]. Hopefully, I'll do it again."

Lackey arrives in St. Louis with a 3.60 ERA in 21 starts this season, and he'll be caught by his former Boston battery mate, A.J. Pierzynski.

Masterson, meanwhile, will make his Cardinals debut on Saturday fresh off the disabled list, where he has spent the last three weeks with an inflamed right knee. After being an American League All-Star last season, he posted a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts this season for a sub-.500 Indians team.

"It's great to be able to come here," Masterson said. "A winning tradition [where you] have a chance. That's right where you want to be."

Both he and the Cardinals hope he might benefit from the change of scenery. Masterson said the time spent on the DL provided an opportunity to both rest and work on his mechanics.

"I think we'd like to see the pitcher that we've had over the last few years, absolutely, compared to what was happening earlier this year," Masterson said. "I've had the chance to really get in a good spot. Although it won't be perfection, it will be some good stuff out there. So I'm excited."

Both pitchers will have the task of adjusting to the NL. Although their days of facing designated hitters are over for now, a new challenge awaits when they step to the plate.

Masterson is 3-for-22 in his career as a batter; Lackey is 4-for-43 .

"It was good in college," Lackey said of his hitting. "I'm 35 now, that was a long time ago."

Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.