FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If you were looking for John Lackey over the winter, one of the most likely spots to find him was at one of the several cardio machines at the gym where he worked out in Southern California.

Sure, he is still the big righty. But Lackey took the initiative to amp up his running routine, and the results are evident on first glance.

"I ran a lot more this offseason," said Lackey. "I worked with a different trainer this offseason and did a lot more cardio stuff. I was probably 252, 254 [pounds], something like that last year. I think I was like 241 or 242 [pounds] today, something like that."

The Red Sox didn't tell Lackey to shed some pounds. It was his idea.

"I was looking to lose maybe five, 10 pounds and just kind of come in a little bit lighter, because, you know, I just thought I needed to a little bit," said Lackey. "I'm just trying to give myself the best chance possible to stay healthy and maintain a high-level performance throughout the year, because I think we're all pretty excited about this season and wanting to be part of it."

Aside from looking a little fitter, Lackey also has a far bigger comfort level coming to camp this year. He is no longer the new guy. That title will fall on Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks.

"Everybody's welcoming him back as opposed to shaking his hand and saying, 'Nice to meet you.' The fact that he's in such great shape will help, too," said manager Terry Francona. "He looks terrific, but he looks excited. I know we're excited."

Lackey now knows what it is like to pitch full-time in the American League East in a market like Boston.

"[It makes it] a lot easier," Lackey said. "For one thing, I know everybody's name this year, so that's definitely a lot nicer this year -- just to be kind of welcomed back instead of trying to learn everything."

In 2010, Lackey went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. The overall results fell a little below expectations after he signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract.

"There's definitely room for improvement," Lackey said. "I think experience of a year here will help. I think I did some good things in the second half and hopefully I'll just kind of keep that moving."

It's no secret that what plagued Lackey the most was facing the heavy-hitting competition of the AL East so much more often. Against the AL East, he had a 4.99 ERA.

"I was expecting a little bit of a change. It took some adjustments and I think I made some of those towards the end," said Lackey. "Mentally, you've got to be focused, going through lineups. You've got to know when -- there's certain situations -- to pitch around a guy with a base open. There's a lot more game-planning, I would say, because the lineups are deeper."

In the first half, Lackey went 9-5 with a 4.78 ERA. Befitting the type of season it was for him, when he started to pitch better after the All-Star break (3.97 ERA), the wins (5-6) dried up.

The way Lackey looks at 2010 is that it wasn't one of his best seasons, but it wasn't one of his worst either. His bottom line was that the Red Sox didn't make the postseason.

So Lackey quickly pushed the season aside and went about his offseason. It was a winter that had some anxious moments. In November, Lackey's wife, Krista, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The couple relocated from Texas to California, where Krista underwent chemotherapy treatments.

Krista Lackey is doing well now, and her husband appeared to be in a good place both mentally and physically as he spent about 12 minutes with reporters on Monday.

Though he is bound to be penciled in as Boston's No. 4 starter behind Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, Lackey sees no reason he can't pitch the same way he did when he was considered the ace of the Angels.

"I've done it before, I don't see why not," Lackey said. "No, I mean, I still feel strong. I feel capable of doing that, for sure, yeah."

On the same day the Phillies' star-studded rotation held a joint news conference in Clearwater, Fla., Lackey was asked how he thinks Boston's rotation might match up.

"I think it's kind of pointless to compare us to them," Lackey said. "But we can be as good as anyone. We've got guys with pretty good track records. If we perform up to our capabilities, it's going to be pretty good. Buchholz really emerged last year, and Lester, in my mind, is the best in the game, to be honest with you. If Beckett just comes back and is himself, we're going to be just fine."

And Lackey's quest to win his second World Series ring figures to be a little more exciting than the monotony of the treadmill.

"I'd do mostly machines, so I'd do 20 [minutes] on one machine, 20 [minutes] on another, 20 [minutes] on another. I'd do about an hour a day of cardio stuff," said Lackey. "That's why I went to three machines. It gets boring after about 20 minutes on one machine, and you've got to switch to another one. I watched a lot of SportsCenter."