Boston Red Sox

Sources: Wakefield's roster spot is safe

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Sources: Wakefield's roster spot is safe

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla -- Friday morning, responding to a question about Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield, Red Sox manager Terry Francona made a reference to some "tough decisions'' the team will have to make to cut down to 25 players for Opening Day.

That, in turn, quickly led to speculation that Wakefield, by far the longest-tenured Red Sox player and the oldest player in baseball, could have his roster spot in jeopardy.

And when Wakefield followed that runaway speculation with a poor outing Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays -- three innings, six runs allowed, four homers given up -- the speculation gained further monentum.

However, two club sources said Friday that Wakefield's spot in the Boston bullpen was safe, especially given the team's lack of starting pitching depth.

Wakefield, too, though unhappy with his start, showed no evidence that he was worried about making the team. Asked about the significance of a rough start at this point in his career, Wakefield responded evenly: "Nothing. I was just trying to get my pitch count up. I would have liked to do it in more than three innings, but it didn't happen that way.''

In explaining the homer barrage, Wakefield blamed poor mechanics.

"I was rushing to the plate a little bit and left some balls up,'' he said. "In the second inning, I got two outs. Then, I came out of my delivery and left the ball up and couldn't rebound after that...You want to pitch well, obviously, but my biggest concern is staying healthy all spring, building my innings up and getting ready to pitch when April comes around.''

Wakefield, who came into the outing with a 2.70 ERA in three previous appearances, said his mechanics previously been fine this spring.

"Absolutely...absolutely,'' he said. "I feel like I've been throwing the ball very, very well...better than some springs in the past. Until today...I knew what I was doing wrong, I just couldn't stop it. I wasn't staying back long enough.''

Wakefield has made no secret of the fact that he would prefer to start rather than relieve. But even in his role as the team's long man in the bullpen, he could prove valuable since the team has a lack of other options beyond the starting five of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Even last year, when Wakefield was bumped from the rotation when Matsuzaka came off the disabled list on May 1, Wakefield still got 15 starts over the remainder of the season.

"Yeah, I think so,'' said Wakefield. "I don't have a problem doing whatever. I don't think past tomorrow, to be honest with you. Whenever I'm called upon to try to get outs, whether it's in relief or as a starter, I"ll do my best when asked.

"I can't think about (the fact that) I'm going to get 20 starts this year for sure. There's no guarantees. I'm just trying to get myself prepared for Opening Day and see what happens after that.''

With Felix Doubront (elbow soreness) and Junichi Tazawa (recovering from Tommy John surgery 11 months ago), the Sox are thin in emergency starters beyond Wakefield and Aceves.

"That's always been in that bag,'' said bench coach DeMarlo Hale of Wakefield's versatility, "knowing that you can go to him if one of the starters happens to go down for a DL stint. He's pitched long enough as far as the preparation he goes through. He knows what it takes.

"When you go into the season, knowing that you have that versatility, there's a little comfort that comes with that. Hopefully, we don't have injuries. But at this level and in this business, you have to be aware of things happening and have other options. We know what he's capable of. He knows what it takes to win and he will do what it takes to help the team win. It's good to have him back there if something happens, trust me.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.

Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.

Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN. 

Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."

The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.