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.