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John Lackey focused on preparation, not numbers, for 15th big-league season

John Lackey came to Chicago for jewelry … that he can throw in a box in his closet.

That’s where his two other World Series rings reside, he said, not to mention his real wedding ring.

At least he thinks that’s where they are.

And that’s probably where he’ll put his latest piece of bling after he receives it during an April 12 ceremony at Wrigley Field.

"I’ve got a rubber wedding ring, for goodness’ sake," Lackey said while tugging on the black band on his left ring finger. "I’m not a flashy guy."

Lackey, who said last season he didn’t come to the Cubs to get a haircut but rather for jewelry, wears the rubber ring for comfort while playing baseball or golf or working out.

He said the Cubs World Series ring is "going to be awesome to have, for sure" and hinted he might break it out — or the ones he won with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Angels in 2002 — for special occasions.

"If I have to go to a wedding or throw on a tux, I’ll wear one of them," he said.

Lackey, 38, was wearing a Cubs uniform Tuesday, making his first start of spring training in an 8-7 loss to Team Italy in front of 10,762.

After taking a fresh baseball from plate umpire Dale Scott and patting him on the back, Lackey rearranged the dirt around the rubber and dug in for more preparation for his 15th major-league season.

Two innings, one hit, one strikeout and an undetermined number of pitches later, Lackey was long for the locker room and a bite to eat.

When asked about his pitch count, Lackey shrugged it off as just a number, like his age.

"I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Whatever," Lackey said. "We’ve got about a month before it matters. Make something up. Who cares?"

While he wasn’t sure of the number of pitches, he was sure that all but one were fastballs.

The real work at this time of year, he said, comes not on a mound during a game but beforehand in the bullpen, where he threw all of his pitches.

"The first couple times, the pregame warm-up is almost more important than what happens in the game," he said. "I’m working on things. The game, I’m just kind of firing some fastballs."

And he’s not paying attention to those numbers, in terms of velocity, either.

"I don’t look at the (radar) gun in June," he said with a chuckle when asked whether he knew how hard he was throwing.

He’s looking more at finishing his preparation for 2017. The question of when Lackey might retire has come up during spring training, but Lackey said Tuesday he feels better than he has since Tommy John elbow surgery cost him the 2012 season.

"We’ll see," he said. "Just going to keep pitching and see what happens."

He’s in the final year of a two-year, $32 million deal and in search of a fourth World Series ring to throw in the closet.

Teammate Jon Lester said Lackey seems up to the task of at least one more season.

"He feels good," Lester said. "That’s what it comes down to, if he’s physically able to keep up with it."

Twitter @ChiTribSkrbina