Lackey pays tribute to late Dr. Yocum

BOSTON -- No player on the Red Sox had a longer relationship with Dr. Lewis Yocum than John Lackey, who originally began his career with the Angels and thus knew Yocum, the team's orthopedist for 36 years, for more than a decade until Yocum's death last month of liver cancer at the age of 65.

It was Yocum who performed Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on Lackey in November 2011. Lackey has made a triumphant recovery from that surgery, as have so many pitchers treated by Yocum in his storied career. Yocum was a protege of Dr. Frank Jobe, who performed the original ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery on Tommy John.

"He was always in the training room, you know, drinking coffee, hanging out, a great guy to talk to," Lackey said here Thursday. "He was fun, always had a joke, laughing. Great person to be around and obviously, he really had a great effect on the game as far as getting guys back from injuries. He really helped a lot of different athletic trainers throughout the league."

Lackey said he had drawn close to Yocum over the years.

"We were pretty tight," he said.

At the end of the 2011 season, Lackey went to Yocum to have his elbow examined.

"He asked me, 'What were you doing pitching?' -- with a few different words thrown in there," Lackey said, adding that the decision to undergo surgery required very little discussion. "It was matter-of-fact."

"He was good," Lackey said. "That was one of the main reasons I went to him, and wanted him to do the surgery. Because of the relationship we had, it was more than just doctor-player, he was a good guy. And I trusted him."

Lackey had heard from Angels trainer Adam Nevala that Yocum wasn't doing well, and ultimately spent his final days at home under hospice care.

Yes, he said, he thinks of Yocum, and the impact he has had on his career.

"Absolutely," he said. "How I feel right now and success I've had this season, I owe a lot to him, for sure."