Sox add knuckler to replace Wakefield
With veteran on DL, Boston will recall righty Zink from Triple-A
CHICAGO -- As it turns out, one knuckleballer's misfortune can be another's gain.
With Tim Wakefield going to the 15-day disabled list, Charlie Zink will be called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and make his Major League debut on Tuesday night at Fenway Park against the Texas Rangers.
Considering how effective Zink has been in his 25 starts for Pawtucket this season (13-4, 2.89 ERA, .228 opponents batting average), he was the logical choice. The only sticking point was that Zink last pitched on Friday, meaning this start will have to come on three days' rest.
But the Red Sox quickly learned that was not an issue.
"My understanding is he's actually done it quite often," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That is something we needed to check on."
For Zink, who turns 29 later this month, it is the opportunity he has long coveted since being signed by the Red Sox as a Minor League free agent on April 1, 2002. Interestingly, it was former Sox pitching great Luis Tiant who recommended that the club sign Zink, having coached him at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Zink got the word once Pawtucket finished Monday afternoon's home game against Charlotte. He immediately began packing his bags for Boston.
"I talked to him a few minutes ago," Francona said. "He seems very excited. He should be. He's coming to the middle of a pennant race. This is a pretty neat opportunity for him. Hopefully for us too."
Catcher Kevin Cash, who worked with Zink last year in a few starts at Pawtucket, looks forward to being reunited with the right-hander.
"I caught him probably three starts last year, and he threw the ball very well," Cash said. "This year, obviously, what he's doing in the International League, he's probably made some drastic improvements. I've caught bits and pieces from guys coming up, and I've asked about how he's throwing.
"He pitches a lot like Wake as far as, he's able to throw his knuckleball for strikes and when he gets behind 2-0 or 3-1, he's still committed to throwing the knuckleball. I think that's big. If you're not committed to doing that, you're going to get in trouble throwing 80-mph fastballs when you're behind in the count."
As for Wakefield, the 42-year-old veteran had a cortisone shot in Boston on Monday and was examined by Red Sox medical director Thomas Gill. The club remains optimistic he can return in a couple of weeks.
"He's going to be approximately three days with no throwing," Francona said. "Again, he's going to get re-examined. In the meantime, I think Tom kind of concurred with what everyone else thought. It was probably a good idea that he not pitch. We maybe hopefully stayed ahead of this thing. A few days down from throwing, get him back up and get him back. I think there was nothing that stood out structurally from the MRI or anything."
While Wakefield recovers, Zink will finally see his dreams realized.
"This is everything I have ever dreamed of," Zink told The Providence Journal. "It has come true now, and I'm going to the Major Leagues. It's ridiculous. I'm at a loss for words. I really don't know what to say about it. I'll be smiling forever now. This is just awesome. Awesome."
Francona is looking forward to watching it unfold.
"This is going to be a great opportunity," Francona said. "This kid is going to come up and probably be nervous as [heck]. We'll make him feel as comfortable as he can, and hopefully, he'll go out there and dazzle them and have fun doing it."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.