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08/12/08 8:11 PM ET

Zink gets thumbs up from Wakefield

Rookie receives high praise from injured fellow knuckler

BOSTON -- Charlie Zink made his Major League debut against the Rangers on Tuesday, and, at 28 years, 352 days, he became the oldest American League pitcher to debut with a start since Orlando Hernandez (32 years, 235 days) in 1998.

Fellow knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was watching from nearby, cheering him on along the way. It was Wakefield's spot that Zink took in the rotation for this outing, and the 16-year veteran was proud of the right-hander for making the leap to the big leagues.

"It's awesome," Wakefield said before the game. "I'm glad he got a chance to pitch up here, and I'll be rooting for him from the dugout."

Zink was 13-4 this season with Triple-A Pawtucket before the callup, and the organization was more than happy to admit they had been waiting for this moment to get him up to the Majors, though nothing past this first start is guaranteed.

"We'll see how he throws tonight and go from there," general manager Theo Epstein said. "We're really happy for him; he's earned this. He's had a long path to the big leagues, and nothing's been handed to him. He's gone out and been consistently good for Pawtucket."

Manager Terry Francona agreed, saying he hasn't seen Zink pitch personally in about three years, but is familiar with the scouting reports and how well he's fared with the PawSox.

"He's earned the right to start this game," Francona said. "Where it goes from here, we'll see. But, like Theo said, nothing's been handed to him."

As for Wakefield, he said his trip to the 15-day disabled list with tightness in his right shoulder is the right move. Instead of fighting through it now, this might save him in the long-term down the stretch.

"When I get my arm up and accelerate through the slot and keep repeating that 100-some times, it's going to eventually shut down," Wakefield said. "[I] tried to grit my teeth and try to get through it, but I think they made the right decision to shut me down, so hopefully, I can be healthy in September down the stretch."

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.