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.

Report: Orioles interested in Lance Lynn

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The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.

Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.

Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.