Wakefield gets start; Beckett tweaks back
Knuckler on Wednesday; Sox planned to rest righty anyway
BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield began the season in the starting rotation. The knuckleballer hasn't started since facing the Orioles on April 25, and on May 1, he made his first relief appearance since June 9, 2004, throwing 2 1/3 innings in the Red Sox' 12-9 loss in Baltimore.
Between relief appearances, he had made 162 starts. On Wednesday, Wakefield will return to the rotation, albeit temporarily, to face the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, pushing Josh Beckett's next start to Friday in Detroit.
Wakefield was moved to the bullpen to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who returned from the disabled list, where he began the season with back and neck ailments.
After Monday's 7-6 win over the Blue Jays, Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced Beckett had tweaked his back swinging in preparation of upcoming Interleague Play. Francona had already announced his plans to change the rotation. Beckett's back issue was coincidental to that, he said.
"We'll get him checked out in the morning," Francona said. "He had a stiff back the other day a little bit.
"He was kind of starting to swing the bat, he felt it and it grabbed him a little bit. Nothing that guys don't have, but when he was swinging tonight, it spasmed up a little bit."
Francona was unsure how this might affect his plans for the rotation.
"We really don't know," he said. "We've been trying to progress our pitchers slow, some flips, hits in the cage, and we were trying to do it right before the game."
Beckett, who had a difficult outing in his previous start on Friday against the Yankees -- giving up nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings -- could benefit from the extra rest. In 34 starts throughout his career with six or more days' rest, Beckett is 17-11 (a .607 winning percentage) with a 3.09 ERA. On regular five days rest, he is 35-24 in 80 starts (a .593 winning percentage) with a 3.82 ERA.
In seven starts this season, Beckett is 1-1 with a 7.46 ERA. As a starter this year, Wakefield is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In three relief appearances, spanning 6 1/3 innings, he has given up six earned runs on seven hits, with no walks and two strikeouts, for an ERA of 8.53.
One of the issues pitching coach John Farrell plans to work on with Beckett on the extra side day is working out of the stretch.
"There's multiple reasons for the adjustment in the rotation," Farrell said. "An additional side with Josh to force -- particularly out of the stretch -- him getting back to a proper balance point and not getting spread out to where he loses his downhill plane on his fastball. When he gets into a proper position, his curveball is less readable by an opposing hitter. Part of this at times is a constant use of a slidestep, which can help, or that can cause some of the havoc that we're trying to correct here.
"[Tuesday] would be his normal day. He threw an abbreviated side [session] yesterday, so tomorrow ... would be a full normal side [session] with two days off prior to his start."
In addition to giving Becket -- who Francona said he doesn't think "physically feels really good" -- an extra day of rest, getting a start for Wakefield would also keep him stretched out in the event he is called up on for an emergency start. Wakefield pitched three innings Friday and one inning Sunday against the Yankees.
"That gives Beckett a chance to have a second side [session]," Francona said. "Although it probably won't be lengthy but kind of a touch and feel, which is really good, I think, for him. It also helps us keep Wake stretched out like we wanted to do.
"He pitched the three innings the other night. We gave him the choice last night whether he thought the inning would be good for him or not. He wanted the inning. Then he comes back Wednesday. So, again, we don't know what the future holds. But we won't have allowed to get too far where he hasn't pitched. I think it works as well as it can. We're trying to make this work. And I think this is a good thing."
While it is an unusual situation, it is not unique.
"Last year, we did it differently," Francona said. "We had different guys coming off the DL, things like that. If I was the general manager, I wouldn't want to go into the year with just five pitchers. We've seen what happens, or what can happen. So we have our roster. Let's make it work the best we can. I guess that's how we view it. So if we have to be outside the box a little bit, I would rather do that than just say, 'Well, we got six or five, we're in a bad spot.' No, we're really not. We have good pitching.
"Let's make it work the best we can."
Dice-K dealing with inconsistency
BOSTON -- Since coming off the disabled list, where he started the season with back and neck ailments, Daisuke Matsuzaka has made two starts. To call those starts inconsistent would be an understatement.
In his first start, in Baltimore on May 1, Matsuzaka lasted just 4 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts and two home runs in Boston's 12-9 loss. In the outing, he started out strong, but couldn't hold a three-run lead, giving up six runs in the fifth.
In his other outing, on Thursday against the Angels, he earned the win despite giving up five runs on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. After giving up four runs in a 39-pitch first inning, he settled down, throwing a total of 38 pitches over the next three innings.
"We have kind of a tale of two games," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The one game in the last inning, he wasn't too good. The other night, the first inning wasn't too good. Other than that, he's been really good.
"So I guess putting it all together consistently [is a problem]. But even on his side days, he's strong, he feels good about himself. He has had a couple of bad innings that have hurt our chances to win. But he's actually thrown the ball pretty well."
Francona was unable to see a common problem in Matsuzaka's two bad innings.
"No, they were different, I would say," Francona said. "In Baltimore, he started trying to overthrow, a little bit like [Josh] Beckett [in Friday's 10-3 loss to the Yankees at Fenway Park]. ... The other night he threw the first two strikes and then all of a sudden, it was like he was trying to get everybody to chase. And then once he was aggressive with his fastball again in the zone, he was fine. It sets up every other pitch."
Francona lauded Matsuzaka's improved openness with the coaching staff. Communication difficulties had been an issue in the past.
"He's a lot more open with us than he used to be, which is good," Francona said. "He does a good job of communicating [his] feelings, and it makes it easier I think for [pitching coach] John [Farrell] to, I think, acknowledging that there were differences culturally.
"A lot of things that we tried to be prepared for, but we just can't until you go through it and know people. You try to do the best you can. But I think he is directly responsible, too. He's opened up to John a lot."
Playing winter ball, Francona had his own experience living and playing in a foreign country where he didn't speak the language.
"Because I played in winter ball and I thought I could 'hablo' a little bit," Francona said. "[But] when somebody put a microphone in front of my face, panic went up. You start doing interviews in a different language, that's a bad feeling. I could understand that. In a baseball environment, when you're relaxed with your teammates, you can probably certainly understand a lot of what's being said and get enough out. But then when you want to start trying to do an interview, that would be really tough.
"He does a pretty good job, and it's not just conversational, but he listens real hard and he tries to understand what you're saying, and I think if it's enough baseball-related, he gets a good portion of it."
Asked about his own Japanese abilities, Francona replied, "Terrible. My English isn't that good, so I don't know how my Japanese can be any better."
Drew a late scratch with vertigo
BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew was a last-minute scratch from Monday's game against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Minutes before game time, it was announced that Drew was taken out of the lineup because of vertigo.
It is a problem Drew has dealt with in the past, including earlier this season. In May 2008, he missed a game because of the condition. He went on an 11-game hit streak once he returned to the lineup.
Jonathan Van Every took Drew's place in right field on Monday night, batting ninth.
Cameron begins rehab stint
BOSTON -- Center fielder Mike Cameron, who has been sidelined since April 19 with a lower abdominal strain, began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. Cameron served as the designated hitter, going 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and run scored in the PawSox's 3-2 loss to the Gwinnett Braves in Pawtucket.
"[It sounds] like everything was real good," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "But [trainer Mike Reinold] hadn't talked to Cam yet, and I had my hands full."
Left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, out since April 11 after colliding with third baseman Adrian Beltre in the ninth inning in Kansas City, is not as far along as Cameron. Ellsbury suffered hairline fractures in four ribs on his left side.
"[He's] doing OK," Francona said. "We'll keep reevaluating every day."
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.