John Lackey faces live hitters for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

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Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told reporters late last month that he was “very impressed” after watching John Lackey throw batting practice. And now the right-hander has taken another major stride.

According to Danny Picard of CSN New England, Lackey tossed 15 pitches to live hitters Saturday at Fenway Park without experiencing any sort of pain or discomfort in his surgically-repaired right elbow.

“It’s the first step in the new world for him, after a real hard summer of rehab,” said Bobby V in his review of the short workout. “And better than how he looked, is how he felt. He said he felt great afterwards. And that’s what’s really important.”

Lackey is on track to be fully healthy by the beginning of spring training next February. The 33-year-old is under contract through the 2014 season at a salary of $15.25 million per year.

Miguel Sano gained weight this offseason

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Not all players coming in to spring training are in The Best Shapes of Their Lives. Some have put on a few pounds, such as Miguel Sano, notes Twins GM Thad Levine:

Sano has been given medical clearance to engage in all baseball workouts with his teammates, his surgically reinforced left shin now completely healed, though the Twins intend to lighten his schedule to prevent any new injuries.

They’d like to lighten something else, too: His “generous carriage,” as General Manager Thad Levine delicately put it last week. Sano’s conditioning understandably lags, after a winter largely spent incapacitated by the surgery.

Sano’s conditioning has often been a topic of conversation among the members of the Minnesota press corps, though not always in good faith. For example, last year when Sano injured his shin by fouling a ball off of it, one member of the The Fourth Estate found a way to make a column out of blaming the freak injury on Sano’s conditioning. At least in this instance his colleague is correctly noting that the poor conditioning is a result of the injury and not the cause.

Still, it’s just another issue facing Sano this spring. He’s out of shape, coming off of an injury, and — not that he’s due any sympathy for it — he’s facing a likely suspension arising out of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against him late last year.

So this spring we’ll be seeing more of Sano, it seems. At least until that time we’ll be seeing less of him.