Tim Wakefield’s Strong Start Proves Red Sox Have Mr. Reliable Back in the Mix

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April 10, 2010

Tim Wakefield's Strong Start Proves Red Sox Have Mr. Reliable Back in the Mix After each of his solid starts in spring training, Tim Wakefield was asked if he expected to be in the Red Sox rotation.

Ever classy, Wakefield would always give an answer, even though we always knew how he felt. It got to the point where he even made a joke of it, one time asking a reporter, "What do you think?"

The line of inquiry sure seems a bit strange now.

Although the Sox offense gave him little support and the bullpen lost the lead he gave them, Wakefield?s 2010 debut Friday night in Kansas City was a study in reliability, something the club could use right about now.

"It?s still early," Wakefield said after a disappointing 4-3 loss. "We have a lot more games to play, and we?re just trying to find a rhythm for everybody right now."

Everybody, perhaps, but Wakefield.

The 43-year-old, who became the oldest pitcher in team history to start a game when he stepped on the mound in Kauffman Stadium, took a shutout two outs into the bottom of the sixth inning. He gave up solo home runs on back-to-back pitches to Billy Butler and Rick Ankiel but retired the final four men he faced before departing with a 3-2 lead.

Wakefield struck out six and walked just one, building upon a spring training run which saw him go 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA. All this after an offseason which began with surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.

The Sox left eight men on base and failed to cash in on a handful of opportunities in support of their starter. When the bullpen surrendered two runs in the eighth, Wakefield was deprived of career win No. 190.

"He was terrific," manager Terry Francona said. "He was in the zone. The ball was moving. A lot of first pitch strikes. Just one walk. Our inability to spread the game out after we got a lead ends up coming back to bite us."

Wakefield?s effectiveness was obvious. But in typically humble fashion, he brushed aside a question as to what was working for him with an answer about what went wrong.

"I felt like I had good movement on my knuckleball. I was throwing strikes," he said. "The only mistake that I really made was a 3-1 fastball to Butler. I meant to throw it away and threw it right down the middle. In that kind of a situation I?m trying not to walk him either, I got beat with a bad pitch and you have to tip your cap sometimes."

The year is young, but already the Red Sox are surrounded by uncertainty. Francona has been asked how he plans to handle a slumping David Ortiz. The bullpen has blown leads in three straight games. And the offense which some said would suffer a bit without Jason Bay has scored eight runs in its last three games.

All that makes having something to rely on that much more important. In Wakefield, the oldest starter in franchise history, that?s exactly what the Sox have.

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