BOSTON — Tim Wakefield did not appear to be a happy man late Sunday afternoon. After all, the Red Sox bullpen had just coughed up his hard-earned 4-1 lead en route to an extra-inning loss to Baltimore.
That wasn't what was under his skin, however.
Wakefield did little to hide his displeasure at being moved to the Boston bullpen, a change that manager Terry Francona confirmed after Wakefield's 392nd start in a Red Sox uniform.
The shift will coincide with Daisuke Matsuzaka's return from the disabled list later in the week, making Wakefield a legitimate part of the bullpen for the first time since 2002, when he made 30 relief appearances.
The 43-year-old, who allowed two runs and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings on Sunday, passed when asked if he had any comments on the move, saying only "I don't have any." When one reporter inquired about the promises made to Wakefield in Fort Myers that he would in fact be a starter, the right-hander answered with a clear effort to change the subject.
"Today was a very good day, I threw a lot of strikes," Wakefield said, uninterested in engaging the media on the decision. "We came up on the short end of the stick."
Francona indicated that the move, which had been rumored for days, did not come lightly. He also sees no decision made on April 25 as having any degree of permanence.
"I have a lot of respect for what Wake has done and what Wake will continue to do," Francona said. "This is not us turning him into a reliever. This is us putting him in the bullpen until he starts again."
While Wakefield may see such a comment as manager-speak, there's plenty of truth to Francona's words. Since Wakefield joined the team in 1995, the Sox have used an average of 11 pitchers in starting roles on an annual basis. Matsuzaka will be just the sixth of 2010, and he has appeared in only 12 major-league games since the end of the 2008 season.
Even if that thought gives him no comfort, Wakefield will get his chance again.
"We're gonna have some things to deal with," Francona said. "We always do. A lot of things. This will turn out good. I believe that."
For now, Wakefield could prove vital for a bullpen which has lacked a true long man, an issue which came to light again Sunday. With the game tied 4-4 entering the 10th, Francona's options to begin the extra frames were Scott Atchison or Manny Delcarmen. Both can go two-plus innings, but it is not their specialty, nor is it for anyone else out there.
Atchison allowed the first three men to reach and left without retiring a batter. All of them scored, giving the bullpen an ugly finish to a 4-6 homestand; Red Sox relievers gave up eight runs in the final 4 1/3 innings.
Perhaps it's a bit of irony that Wakefield was denied his first win of the season and the 190th of his career when the bullpen lost his lead. Ever a team-first guy, he can look to that as motivation to fill a role that needs to be filled. At least the club should have no worries that the new role will present a problem — Wakefield, whose 3.75 ERA as a reliever is roughly two-thirds better than his career mark as a starter, said he has no concerns with making the adjustment.
But he didn't say it with a smile on his face.