CHICAGO -- As usual, the Red Sox expect David Wells to come up big -- beginning with Wednesday's start in the American League Division Series against the White Sox.

Wells anticipates a good start, which could lead to a happy ending.

"I'm not getting any younger," Wells, 42, said. "I'm feeling pretty good right now, but I hope we can just win the whole thing and I can run off into the sunset and say goodbye."

If retirement is what he is seeking, the left-hander has history and experience on his side. The 18-year veteran is 10-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 25 postseason appearances with four different clubs. He is 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA in seven starts lifetime in Division Series, and the Red Sox are the defending World Series champions.

Wells also loves pitching in playoffs.

"We play hard all year long to get to this point, and I think this is where you can shine," he said. "You can make a name for yourself, and you can set the tone. There are a whole lot of things that you can do in this situation. You just can't be afraid. I think that's the bottom line."

Wells has no fear and he doesn't do anything in a small way. He's a big man -- 6-foot-3 and listed at 248 pounds -- who takes pride in being a big-game pitcher. That's a good thing if you are the Red Sox.

"I think to be a big-game pitcher, you have to, first of all, be a good pitcher," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "Boomer is a good pitcher and the stage doesn't affect him at all. He's done it enough that I think he really enjoys it, and he's really good.

"At this point in his career, I think some of the aches and pains go away because of the situation, which can only help."

Wells knows the White Sox well. The left-hander went 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA in 6 2/3 innings against the South Siders this season and is 8-8 with a 4.58 ERA against them for his career. He also spent an injury-plagued season with Chicago in 2001, going 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA in 16 starts.

Wells still counts Chicago center fielder Aaron Rowand and first baseman Paul Konerko among his friends, but he says he will have no problem pitching against them.

"They're my opponents, and I've got to go out there and pitch my game and try to put a stop to them," Wells said. "They've got a good team. I pitched against them earlier this year and they hit me pretty good. I have to be better than I was last time. I don't really look into facing former teams. You've got to face somebody regardless of who they are. Hopefully it all works out."

It worked out well for Wells in Boston this season. He went 15-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 30 starts, and ranked among American League leaders in walks per nine innings, winning percentage, wins and complete games. Wells won at least 10 games and reached the 180-plus innings mark for the fourth consecutive season, and reached the 30-start plateau for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

Wells ended the season with three wins in a row -- not bad for a pitcher with a history of back and knee problems.

"There's always going to be some health issues," Francona said. "He's got some creaky joints. If we had to ask him to run a marathon tomorrow, I wouldn't feel too good. We're asking him to pitch, and because of that, I really feel good."

Wells admits he has pondered retirement before, in large part because of his injuries, and hinted the matter could come up again. He hopes the next time he considers leaving the game, he will do so with his third World Series championship. Wells won a World Series ring in 1992 with Toronto and in 1998 with the Yankees.

"It would make my decisions a lot easier," the veteran said. "I mean, it would be an easy exit, but like I said, I'm not going to jump the gun now. I want to win it first. So when I do, then it will be an easy decision for me."