In last start for while, Wakefield delivers
Red Sox veteran knuckler allows two runs in 6 2/3 innings
BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield, who last pitched out of the bullpen in 2004, will go back to that role later this week. The fact that Wakefield knew that before taking the ball for Sunday afternoon's start made for a strange backdrop to the day.
The knuckleballer, who trails only Cy Young and Roger Clemens in victories by a Red Sox pitcher, put his disappointment aside and gave his team the type of quality effort he has made commonplace over the years.
Over 6 2/3 innings, Wakefield gave up seven hits and two runs, walking one and striking out five. When he walked off the mound, his team led by three runs. Befitting the type of week it has been for Wakefield, the lead was gone not long after he took his seat in the dugout. Hideki Okajima gave up an RBI single to the Orioles' Nick Markakis and then a game-tying homer to Miguel Tejada.
Wakefield (0-1, 5.40 ERA) took a no-decision on a day the Red Sox lost, 7-6, in 10 innings. Wakefield's move to the bullpen will open up a spot in the rotation for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is coming off the disabled list.
What are Wakefield's thoughts on going to the bullpen?
"I don't have any," Wakefield said.
At least none that he wanted to share.
Matsuzaka will take the ball on Saturday in Baltimore, and Wakefield will be available in the bullpen, starting on Friday.
Wakefield was told by manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein on Thursday that he was moving to a relief role. Though bottom-line decisions are made all the time, this wasn't an easy one, given what Wakefield (175 wins with the Red Sox) has done in his career and the respect he has built in his own clubhouse, not to mention from Red Sox Nation.
"I have a lot of respect for what Wake has done and for what Wake will continue to do," said Francona. "Again, this is not us turning him into a reliever. This is us putting him in the bullpen until he starts again."
In an ideal world, the Red Sox would have let Wakefield put all his focus on Sunday's start instead of the uneasiness caused by switching roles. But with Matsuzaka set to come back, they could tell that Wakefield was in an uneasy place.
"I thought he had a lot on his mind all week. You could tell," said Francona. "That's why we talked to him the other day. Maybe we made it harder for him. We weren't trying to. He's a good pitcher. We'll always [think] that. This will turn out good, I believe that."
Ultimately, the Red Sox had to send either Clay Buchholz or Wakefield to the bullpen.
"I think we feel for various reasons, he's the guy that can handle this," said Francona. "Viewing this, we're not turning him into a reliever. I understand he's going to go to the bullpen. I don't think there's been a time for a while now where we haven't needed starters. We think he can handle that. I understand emotions are involved, and a lot of things are involved. We're trying to do what we think is best for the ballclub. We'll work our way through this. I don't think before his start was the time to do that."
With the Fenway faithful knowing the subplot of the day -- Wakefield's imminent move to the 'pen -- they gave him a loud ovation as he walked off the mound with two outs in the seventh.
"I thought it was great. I thought it was really good," Wakefield said.
Not so good was watching his lead vanish in just two misfires by Okajima.
"It's obviously disappointing, but it happens throughout the course of a year or the course of a career," Wakefield said. "You just have to bounce back and try to get them next time."
The unrest for Wakefield at the moment is because he doesn't know exactly when his next time will be.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.