The difference between John Lackey pre- and post-surgery needn’t always be presented as an abstraction. There are very tangible ways in which Lackey feels like a new pitcher, and one of them was on display yesterday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

On a number of occasions, Lackey spotted his fastball over the inside corner to left-handed hitters and over the outside corner to right-handed ones.

That may not sound like a huge deal, but for a pitcher like Lackey, it’s significant. Since he’s never going to blow anyone away, he needs to be able to keep hitters honest. A fastball that only gets halfway to the inside corner isn’t so much a fastball as a meatball, but one that gets all the way there might as well be a bowling ball.

“I got extension in to left-handers and that’s a big point,” Lackey said yesterday after throwing 32⁄3 innings of two-run ball against the Rays. “That means I’m getting out front and getting my extension that sometimes was difficult. That’s definitely a good sign.”

Lackey explained what things felt like pre-surgery.

“In to lefties and away to righties was a little tougher, because that extension point is where I felt the twinge,” Lackey said. “That’s definitely nice to be able to do that without pain, to be able to get extended and get to that side of the plate. Before, my arm didn’t go all the way straight.”