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10/05/07 8:57 PM ET

Notes: Cautious route with Wake

Red Sox being conservative with veteran knuckleballer

BOSTON -- Gone for the American League Division Series but clearly not forgotten in the team's future October plans, veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield continues to go through the necessary steps that could lead to his activation for the AL Championship Series -- if the Red Sox can get that far.

"Yesterday he did better," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He stayed at 90 [feet], but he felt better. It's not like he's ready to go throw at 180 feet, but there was a lot of improvement. I think you could even kind of see it in his face where, I think, he was kind of feeling it a little bit."

Wakefield has been experiencing pain in the back of his right shoulder since late August. When Wakefield missed his start on Aug. 31, he quickly ramped back up and returned on Sept. 6. However, that might have backfired, as the injury continued to nag at him and he didn't pitch all that well.

This time, Boston is being more conservative.

"Last time, the progression was: catch, side [session], pitch," Francona said. "He'll [play catch] until he and [pitching coach John Farrell] and [assistant trainer] Mike Reinold feel he's ready to throw a side [session] where it's not going to go backwards. That's the whole idea, to be able to execute his pitches with some arm speed and some confidence so he can make his pitches. That will just go on how he's doing every day."

Is Francona confident Wakefield will be available if there is a next round?

"It was kind of a surprise the way it happened where he wasn't put on the roster," said Francona. "I know he's sore. I guess I'm hoping he's well [enough] because of who he is. I don't know that anything is a lock. I just know he's sore."

Early jet-setters: With the long trip ahead and the Red Sox not expected to arrive in Anaheim until the wee hours of Saturday morning, Game 3 and 4 starters Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett took an early flight out of Boston so they can get the proper rest.

"Because of the craziness of the scheduling, the time changes, the early start and the late start, the importance of the games, they're both leaving [early]," said Francona.

Schilling, who is lined up for Sunday's Game 3, will take his turn following 11 days of rest.

To compensate for the lag time, the right-hander threw two side sessions in preparation for this start.

"It's never etched in stone that the things you do will be perfect," said Francona. "But I think we're hoping that this will work for everybody really, really well. So we're hoping this will be the best for everybody."

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Rest for the weary: Unlike Thursday's optional workout, in which virtually everyone on the team showed up, Francona was actually hoping for minimal participation when the Red Sox have another informal session on Saturday at Angel Stadium.

By league rules, Francona and Schilling are both required to meet the media on Saturday.

"I hope that we just have enough to satisfy the league mandate," Francona said. "Again, we're going to probably roll into the hotel about 6:30, quarter of seven, their time. [This workout is] as optional as you get. In fact, it might be one of those where you show up, you're optioned out. It's just probably not in our best interest to be there. It's crazy travel. It's the way it is."

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Fresh bullpen: The Red Sox had a rarity entering Friday's game. Thanks to all the days off this week and Josh Beckett's complete game in Game 1, every reliever had a minimum of four full days' rest since Sunday's regular-season finale.

When one questioner posed the possibility that Daisuke Matsuzaka could give the 'pen even more rest with a strong performance in Game 2, Francona didn't mind.

"That would be great," Francona said. "If that's the case, we could come up with a simulated game so fast it would make your head spin."

Praising the bench: Though you might not see that much of Eric Hinske, Alex Cora, Bobby Kielty and the other reserves in this series, Francona had nothing but praise for the approach of his bench.

"I don't remember one time all year either putting out a fire or putting out a perceived fire," Francona said. "Hinske, Cora, [Doug] Mirabelli, Kielty when he came, they've all put our team's goals ahead of their own. And that's not easy to do all the time. We've got a bunch of professionals. The batting average isn't always where everybody wants it. That happens. But they're professional and they'll do anything you ask them."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.