– The Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Before he walked out to the mound, John Lackey paused for a moment and thought about the rehabilitation he went through to take this next step.

“I kind of took a second,” the Red Sox pitcher said, “and reflected on the past year and a half. It’s been a lot of work and (I’ve) got to thank a lot of trainers, a lot of people that helped me get back to this point. I was excited to be back out there.”

Lackey returned to the mound Saturday after missing last season following elbow surgery. He got off to a difficult start but worked out of a bases-loaded jam, allowing one run in one inning as a split squad of Tampa Bay Rays beat Boston, 4-3.

“(I was) excited. It was fun. I missed playing baseball for sure,” Lackey said. “It was good to be back out there. Arm felt fine. I didn’t feel any pain in the elbow. So just keep moving forward.”

Lackey had Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season. Tampa Bay loaded the bases against him with no outs before he retired three straight.

Lackey gave up one hit, a walk and hit a batter. He struck out one and threw 20 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Manager John Farrell was pleased.

“From a physical standpoint he came out of today’s outing fine,” Farrell said. “I thought he looked free and easy on the mound. It’s just a matter of getting back into his delivery. With each added inning, that will certainly take place.

“I think there was a lot of anticipation on a number of people’s part and mostly John’s. But now he’s able to start to get into his five-day rotation, normal sides, normal turns through the schedule. But a good first step.”

Tampa Bay got a run off Lackey when Ben Zobrist led off with a walk, went to second on Desmond Jennings’ single and third when Matt Joyce was hit by a pitch. Zobrist scored on Ryan Roberts’ sacrifice fly to right.

Jennings led off the third with a double off Drake Britton, then stole third and scored on a throwing error by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Boston tied it on Jose Iglesias’ two-run homer off Marquis Fleming.

With two outs in the eighth, Leslie Anderson’s two-run homer off Oscar Villarreal put Tampa Bay ahead, 4-2.

The Red Sox scored once in the ninth when Jeremy Hazelbaker doubled and came around on Xander Bogaerts’ single up the middle. Matt Buschmann struck out Daniel Nava looking to earn the save.

n Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, who injured his right hamstring Feb. 12, the first day of official workouts for pitchers and catchers, threw a two-inning simulated game. He threw 37 pitches. Depending on how he responds, he could be inserted into the rotation as early as Thursday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.

PIRATES: The team reached agreement with 41-year-old pitcher Jose Contreras on a minor league contract.

BLUE JAYS: Outfielders Mike McCoy and Ryan Langerhans were shaken up after colliding on a fly ball. Langerhans stayed in the game. McCoy was able to walk toward the clubhouse with a left quad contusion.

MARLINS: Catcher Jeff Mathis broke his right collarbone in the team’s spring-training opener and is expected to be out six weeks.

YANKEES: Shortstop Derek Jeter practiced on-field running and agility drills for the first time since breaking his ankle last fall.

RAYS: Third baseman Evan Longoria returned to camp after missing three days due to the birth of his daughter.

PHILLIES-BLUE JAYS: Philadelphia traded reliever Michael Schwimer to Toronto for minor league first baseman Art Charles.

ROCKIES: Troy Tulowitzki got a hit in his first game since having groin surgery in Colorado’s 11-2 victory against Arizona at Scottsdale, Ariz.

ROYALS: Brandon Wood hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Kansas City a 4-2 victory against Texas at Surprise, Ariz.

BREWERS: Ryan Braun homered in his first at-bat of spring training and Milwaukee beat Oakland 2-1 at Phoenix.

MARINERS: Jason Bay and Justin Smoak hit two-run homers for Seattle in an 8-6 victory against San Diego at Peoria, Ariz.

GIANTS: Ryan Vogelsong pitched two scoreless innings, Pablo Sandoval lumbered home from first base on Jackson Williams’ double, and San Francisco opened its spring schedule with a 4-1 victory against a Los Angeles Angels split squad at Scottsdale, Ariz.