Tim Wakefield Still Has Big Plans for Future With Red Sox

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Tim Wakefield Still Has Big Plans for Future With Red Sox You'd think a 43-year-old pitcher who just had back surgery might be taking some time off to consider his future and weigh his options. But not Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who after undergoing a procedure Wednesday to address a herniated disk, was already looking forward to next season.

Retirement? Ha! Not likely.

"It never crossed my mind," Wakefield told MLB.com. "I was fully confident in what our doctors were telling me ? and once we got to the offseason, I was very ecstatic to get this thing done and get on the other side of the rehab. Talking with the surgeons [Wednesday], everything looks awesome. I'm up moving around. I'm not very sore at all. I'm looking forward to getting to my rehab and getting ready for next year."

In 2009, Wakefield had a terrific first half of the season, going 11-3 and becoming an All-Star for the first time in his 17 seasons in the majors. But after not pitching in the Midsummer Classic, Wake's recurring back injury and related mobility issues limited the right-hander to just four starts the rest of the way. He finished the season with an 11-5 record and a 4.58 ERA.

"Wake is someone that is in our plans," general manager Theo Epstein told The Boston Globe shortly after the Red Sox lost to the Angels in the ALDS. "We hope he makes starts for us next year as well and is a member of the rotation.?

But despite Wakefield's solid numbers, his age and recent injury issues may have caused some concerns to creep into the collective mind of the Red Sox brass. Wakefield is at the end of a one-year, $4 million deal and with the team expected to renew his option for 2010, what's holding up the decision on whether or not to bring him back?

"We haven't sat down and finalized anything,? Epstein told the Globe. "We obviously want to wait and see how the surgery goes and then both sides will sit down and talk."

Epstein and the Red Sox have until five days after the World Series ends to re-sign Wakefield to another option. After the surgery, he was expected to require about 4-6 weeks of rehab before getting into his normal offseason routine. But Wednesday, Wakefield was upbeat and feeling great about his procedure.

"Everything went awesome," Wakefield said. "The whole procedure went as planned, and even the post-op meeting with the surgeon, he said everything went perfect. Didn't see any further damage in there, everything was cleaned up and ready to go."

But it's not just about being ready for spring training. Wakefield, 175-150 during his time in Boston, has bigger goals on his mind, including reportedly gunning for 200 wins with the Red Sox. Cy Young and Roger Clemens are currently tied for the all-time franchise lead with 192 wins.

"Past that, I really can't tell you," Wakefield said. "I'm not planning on getting to that point and retiring. I still feel like I can contribute. I still feel like I can compete at the highest level, and I'm going to continue to play as long as my body allows me and as long as the Red Sox want me around.?

And there's precedent for knuckleballers pitching well into their forties. The legendary Hoyt Wilhelm was a stalwart on the major league mound to the ripe old age of 49. Fellow Hall of Famer Phil Niekro pitched until he was 48. Charlie Hough went 5-9 as a 46-year-old for the Marlins.

The question for the Red Sox really may be whether or not they want him back. If healthy, the presumption is that Wakefield would be a solid complement to a Boston rotation that is expected to also include holdovers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka. But typical 43-year-old aches and pains remain a concern, especially given the way the dinged-up Wakefield pitched in the second half, going 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA and walking 13 batters in 21 innings.

"It was very frustrating that I was doing everything possible to try to stay on the field and to try to get healthy and to try to prove that I could maybe pitch in the postseason," Wakefield said. "It just didn't work out. I have no regrets on the way we handled things and the way it all went down. I'm just thankful that I was able to make an All-Star team for the first time ? and I'm looking forward to trying to win some more games next year for the Boston Red Sox.

"I do have those goals in mind,? he continued. "I'm playing because I feel like I can still contribute to us winning a championship."

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