John Lackey's not one for pronouncements. So as he begins his fourth season in a Red Sox uniform, he's not declaring this a makeover, or a comeback, or anything of the sort.

It doesn't seem to matter that Lackey is noticeably trimmer -- manager John Farrell said the pitcher's lost 17 pounds, but it looks as though it may be twice that -- and has a surgically-repaired elbow, the result of Tommy John surgery some 18 months ago.

But he'll let others declare this is a new beginning. Lackey just wants the baseball in his hand and his regular turn in the Red Sox starting rotation.

"I worked pretty hard," shrugged Lackey of his new physique. "I wanted to be ready when I got to camp. I put in a lot of work last year and I just wanted to give myself the best chance possible to perform well."

Lackey said he feels great, but is taking nothing for granted with Opening Day some six weeks away. There's plenty of work still to be done if he's going to make his first start since the infamous final week of the 2011 season, when the Red Sox crashed out of a playoff spot, setting the stage for some post-season revelations that featured a major league team sometimes behaving like college kids on spring break.

As far as he's come, Lackey knows his journey isn't complete. He's yet, for example, to throw any breaking pitches off a mound, something that he'll soon attempt.

"I've spun some breaking balls on flat ground," he said, "or playing catch. I just haven't thrown in downhill yet. I threw some breaking balls in (in the Instructional League) at the end of the last year, so I'm not concerned about that."

For now, Lackey takes comfort in the fact that his right arm, which pained him for most of 2011 as he pitched throw the elbow injury, is pain-free.

"It's nice for it not to hurt, to be honest with you," he said. "I definitely feel like I took a few years off, I guess."