Wakefield perfect vs. Minor Leaguers
Knuckler finds no problems working with new batterymate
BRADENTON, Fla. -- As shocked as Tim Wakefield was to see his longtime batterymate Doug Mirabelli released earlier this week, the veteran knuckleballer made a strong statement on Sunday that he won't let the personal loss deter his focus.
In his first start A.D. -- After Doug -- Wakefield was merely perfect. Pitching in a Triple-A game against Cincinnati's Triple-A Louisville affiliate at Boston's Minor League complex in Fort Myers, Fla., Wakefield retired all 15 batters he faced.
"I felt really good," Wakefield told reporters in Fort Myers. "I was working on slowing myself down out there. Early on I threw a few fastballs because I was behind on the count in the first inning on a couple of batters, but from then on I was just throwing more strikes with the knuckleball."
Working with new batterymate Kevin Cash, Wakefield was positively unblemished in his five innings, striking out three.
"I didn't even think about that. I had no apprehension about throwing to Cash," said Wakefield. "I've thrown to him before. I've thrown to him on the side and he's always done a good job."
Of Wakefield's 64 pitches, 48 were for strikes.
Cash did get some experience with Wakefield when Mirabelli was hurt in August 2007, catching the knuckleballer four times.
"I guess he was on," said Cash. "In all the times I saw him last year, this was as good as I've ever seen him. I caught his bullpen the other day and he broke off some good ones, but today, I don't care who he was throwing to, he had a great one. I'd say 90 percent of them were coming out of his hand as strikes and then dropping down in the zone. When that many come out as strikes, I don't care who's up there at the plate. It's going to be hard to hit."
Wakefield's next start is expected to be at the Tokyo Dome in an exhibition start against the Yomiuri Giants next Sunday at 6:05 a.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.