Wakefield announces retirement

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Wakefield announces retirement

One of the most remarkable, and historic, careers in Red Sox history came to an end Friday afternoon, when Tim Wakefield announced his retirement.

Wakefield, 45, who has played for the Sox for 17 years and holds the franchise records for innings pitched (3,095), appearances (590) and games started (442), held a press conference at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. He retires with exactly 200 career victories, including 186 as a member of the Red Sox . . . trailing only Roger Clemens and Cy Young, each of whom won 192.

Ex-teammate Derek Lowe, who lives in Fort Myers, attended the press conference, along with current Sox players Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis.

"This has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say I have decided to retire from the game of baseball," said Wakefield, who later added: "Thank you to the Red Sox for giving me the best time of my life."

Wakefield also thanked the Red Sox fans:

"You are the greatest fans in the world. I have enjoyed every minute I have played for you. I appreciate every moment we have shared over the years and I will hold each one of you close to my heart."

A Dan Duquette free-agent pickup in 1995, after he'd been released by the Pirates, Wakefield burst onto the scene with 14 wins in first 15 decisions as a member of the Sox. He finished 18-6 with a 2.95 ERA in a performance that earned him the Comeback Player of the Year award, garnered him votes in both the Cy Young and MVP balloting, and helped Boston run away with the A.L. East crown.

That started the fourth-longest career in franchise history -- only Carl Yastrzemski (23 years), Ted Williams (19) and Dwight Evans (19) played longer in Boston -- that included more postseason appearances (eight) than any other Sox. Over the years he was a staff ace, a closer, and virtually everything in between, as he filled whatever role his managers assigned him.

Wakefield had two 17-win seasons (1998 and 2007) and one 16-win season (2005) after his '95 breakthrough, and is often cited as one of the unsung heroes of the greatest comeback in baseball history. In Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS, he pitched 3 13 innings in relief during the 19-8 loss to the Yankees and was credited by manager Terry Francona with saving the bullpen and setting up the four straight wins that followed. He was the winning pitcher in Boston's 14-inning, Game 5 victory, and -- with several of his teammates -- took a bottle of champagne to the Yankee Stadium mound after Game 7 to not only toast the victory, but erase the memory of the game- and series-losing home run he'd allowed to Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

More importantly, he contributed more time and money to charity than virtually any player in Red Sox history. He won MLB's Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who "who best reflects the spirit of giving back to the community", in 2010.

His last winning season was 2009, when he went 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA and earned his only All-Star berth. He struggled over the last two years (4-10, 5.32, in 2010; 7-8, 5.12, in 2011) and the Sox only offered him a non-roster invitation to spring training this season. Rather than fight for a place on the team, he decided to retire.

"To be honest, I think this is what is best for the Red Sox, what is best for my family," said Wakefield, later adding: "For me, it was the right decision to make."

OFFSEASON

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

Hawks adding Howard could lead to Celtics signing Horford

BOSTON – It’s a toss-up as to which was celebrated more by Boston Celtics fans: Dwight Howard coming to terms with the Atlanta Hawks, or the fact that it significantly improves Boston’s chances of landing one of their top free agent targets Al Horford.

A league executive texted CSNNE.com that Howard being off the market and going to Atlanta, should make the Celtics the favorite to land Horford.

Acquiring Horford, a four-time all-star, would be the biggest free agent signing in the Danny Ainge era. Boston is scheduled to meet with Horford tonight and is expected to offer him a four-year, $113 million max contract.

But as much as the Celtics want Horford, their primary target remains Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant who may be more inclined to seriously consider Boston if they were to acquire Horford.

OFFSEASON

Turner: Ainge 'seemed confident' about Celtics chances of signing Horford

Turner: Ainge 'seemed confident' about Celtics chances of signing Horford

After signing with the Blazers, Evan Turner has been making the rounds showering praise on the Celtics organization and fans. He also left a farewell gift for those excited about free agency: Turner told the Boston Globe that Danny Ainge “seemed confident” at the Celtics’ chances of signing free agent center Al Horford.

Previous reports indicated that the Celtics plan to make a max-contract offer to Horford when they meet him Friday night in Atlanta. The Rockets are the only other team that has reportedly met with the former Hawks All-Star, and Houston's situation isn’t nearly as attractive as Boston’s.

If the Celtics do manage to land Horford on Friday, they’d obviously be adding a former All-Star who’d immediately help the team on both ends of the floor. Immediately, though, Horford would give them another recruiter. Horford and Durant reportedly would like to play with each other, so having him enter the room might help their chances at luring Durant to Boston during Saturday's meeting.

As for Turner, he told the Globe that Ainge expressed he would like him back, but would've had to take a pay cut and a reduced role.

"I liked Boston a lot, bro. The organization, and it’s just a sports city and the city is super nice," Turner told the Globe. "If you put money and everything aside, I would play in Boston every single day of the week. Seeing all those Hall of Famers come back and everything, that’s a real franchise."

The Celtics will likely be saying singing a similar tune to both Horford and Durant this weekend.