Notes: Wakefield at peace this spring
Veteran hurler feeling good, happy to have Mirabelli in camp
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- All is right in Tim Wakefield's world again.
The ribcage injury that made his 2006 summer one of misery hasn't lingered.
"Everything felt fine as soon as I started throwing," said Wakefield, a durable workhorse every year but last year. "I was pleased that it wasn't going to bother me again. "
His long-trusted catcher Doug Mirabelli is here this spring, unlike last year, when he was on a brief sabbatical to the Padres.
"When he filed for free agency, I was a little bit disappointed," said Wakefield. "I was reiterating the fact that I wanted him back and I'm glad they got something done this winter and brought him back. Nothing against Josh Bard, but I didn't want another tryout camp this spring."
And Wakefield, who started on Saturday against the Phillies and gave up three hits and two runs over two innings, enters his 13th season in Boston proud of his role as the team's elder statesman.
"I'm very proud. I'm humbled about it, too," Wakefield said. "There's a lot of guys who don't get a chance to play for the same organization as long as I have here. I'm fortunate the organization has allowed me to stay here for that long."
The beauty of Wakefield is that being 40 doesn't necessarily mean his career is going to come to a close any time soon. See Phil Niekro, the late Joe Niekro and Charlie Hough as reference points.
"You see those guys pitch into their mid- to late 40s," said Wakefield. "I'm hoping to accomplish the same thing. As long as I can stay healthy; Charlie told me the only reason he retired was he couldn't cover first anymore. It wasn't that he could get anybody out, he just couldn't cover first and his reflexes got a little bit slow. Physically, I feel fine now at 40, and I plan to pitch as long as I can."
That was what crushed him about the injury. Wakefield couldn't pitch. He had to watch in agony as the season fell apart for his team.
"It hurt inside," said Wakefield. "Never being on the DL my whole career and then having to spend two months on it, knowing what the team was going through, I was trying my best to get back on the field, but it was sickening being on the bench not being able to help. With the injuries we had last year, it seemed like everybody got hurt at the same time, and we were in the thick of things at the time, and it just felt like the wheels came off and we couldn't recover from that."
No closer to decision: With Mike Timlin still on the shelf with an oblique injury, the closer competition has hit a bit of a lull. While doing his best to narrow down the field, Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated that the derby is in a bit of a holding pattern.
"I'd like to have [a closer] today, [but] it's not happening," said Francona. "Some of it is going to depend on health. A guy like Timlin, we don't want to force the issue and make him go out and pitch, because that would be dumb. We'll just use common sense.
"It's important to give guys roles. Nobody believes in that more than me. At the same time, you can't make the roles artificial or it doesn't do any good. The reason guys have roles is because there's a dependability there, that's why you have them. We have to get to that point."
Timlin, who injured his oblique during a batting practice session on Feb. 25, is hoping to throw a side session on Wednesday. After that, he would have to face hitters at least once before returning to game action.
Joel Pineiro, Brendan Donnelly and Julian Tavarez are also in the mix for the closer's spot.
Delcarmen struggles: Nobody had a rougher day on Saturday than reliever Manny Delcarmen, who is vying for the final roster spot in the bullpen. Delcarmen allowed three hits, three runs and two walks over two-thirds of an inning.
"The troubling thing about Manny today was the lack of making an adjustment," said Francona. "In Spring Training, everyone is going to give up runs, or you're not going to have your good stuff, or it's early. But, again, we want to see a guy make some adjustments, not keep throwing a fastball up and away. We need to make an adjustment at some point. That was a little troubling."
Hansen making progress: Right-hander Craig Hansen finally appears to be over his back woes. Hansen threw on the side on Friday and was scheduled to do so again on Saturday.
Timing is of the essence for Hansen, who is battling several relievers for the final roster spot.
"Hansen had a good day [Friday]," Francona said. "He got pretty aggressive in the bullpen."
Coming up: In a battle of aces, Curt Schilling will face Johan Santana on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET when the Red Sox go to Hammond Stadium to take on the Twins.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.