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Cherington defends Lackey's call to miss Opening Day for personal reasons

BOSTON -- Injured Red Sox pitcher John Lackey declined Boston's invitation to attend Opening Day, citing a non-baseball personal reason. Lackey's call caused a raised eyebrow or two inside the Red Sox clubhouse.

However, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington defended the embattled Lackey, saying, "He was planning on being here. Unfortunately, something happened that he needs to attend to, and he should be there. He'll be back in Boston sometime this weekend.'' Lackey, a major disappointment as a Red Sox after signing for $82.5 million over five years, is out for the year after Tommy John elbow surgery.

By missing the ceremony, Lackey missed a chance to be greeted by fans. Josh Beckett, the other most prominent name connected to the chicken-and-beer parties from last September, received a mixed response. But Beckett has earned a lot more good will here, as a star of the 2007 World series team as well as other playoff teams. Chances are, Lackey's reception would have leaned quite a bit more negative.

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