Haggerty: 'Wake Watch' now in full effect

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Haggerty: 'Wake Watch' now in full effect

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE The mythic sentiment and romantic chase in securing another career milestone probably wore off for level-headed Tim Wakefield about two weeks ago.

The 45-year-old knuckleballer freely admitted earlier this month that notching 200 career wins was an important milestone in his noteworthy baseball body of work, and its an important piece when considering exactly why the pitcher is still active as the oldest player in all of Major League Baseball.

That little fact of Wakefield's life really hasnt changed at all.

But now that the creaky right-hander has come up empty in four straight starts for the Sox looking to bathe in a little baseball immortality, the quest for win No. 200 seems much more like a trip to the dentists office that Wakefield just wants to get out of the way as quickly as possible.

On a day when the Sox dropped to a game ahead of the the idle Yankees amid a dreary rain-out in the Bronx, Wakefields focus was trained much more on dropping a game than hoisting another milestone trophy on his mantle. Wake ended up notching his 33rd career complete game in defeat a good, healthy number for the current era of baseball but a far cry from the mind-blowing 275 career complete games spun by Cy Young during his Red Sox career.

The only hard hit ball against the knuckler in eight innings was the solo homer cracked by Casper Wells in the sixth inning, but all that mattered was the final result thats been the same in three out of his last four starts. There have been some nice consolation prizes, but the big enchilada has escaped Wakefield.

Im just trying to go out there and give quality starts and quality innings, said Wakefield. The results arent what I wanted it to be, but I was able to go out there and give eight innings. Id like to get it out of the way, but winning 200 isnt weighing on my mind to the point where Im pressing.

Wakefield was reminded by the traveling Sox media about the troubles that Hall of Fame left field legend Carl Yastrzemski had in securing hit No. 3000 at the ripe age of 40 as he went hitless in 13 straight at bats before finally nabbing it with a ground ball dribbler against the Yankees.

It was somewhat mockingly referred to as Yaz Watch by the Knights of the Keyboard more than 30 years ago, and Wakefield was looking to avoid his personal quest going down in the same fashion.

Is there a Wake watch now? asked a bemused Wakefield.

Wakefields latest speed bump on the way to 200 wins arrived in Seattle on Sunday afternoon as he pitched a complete game, but allowed nine hits and five runs in a 5-3 loss at Safeco Field.

The Sox never held the lead in the game, and an iffy safe call at second base in the bottom half of the third inning on a Jed Lowrie force play assisted in things getting out of hand for both Wakefield and the Sox.

It all started with a full count, leadoff walk to Casper Wells as so many troublesome rallies do, and then it all went south from there. A pair of singles by Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager plated a single run, and then Ed Hickox totally butchered a force out at second base on an Ichiro grounder that really flung the run-scoring doors open for the Mariners.

I dont even know how it all unfolded," said Wakefield, who seemed stunned that the official scorer slapped Lowrie with an error on a double play ball. "A leadoff walk that I thought was strike three, and after that I was just trying to survive. They ended up scoring three runs.

Wakefields catcher, on the other hand, was still running pretty hot about the pair of calls that went against the Sox in the first few innings and contributed to a 3-0 deficit. A seemingly harmless Dustin Pedroia grounder in the first inning that pulled first baseman Mike Carp off the bag was called out without a peep from the Sox dugout, but the Sox backstop noticed it all.

I thought Wakefield threw the ball well," Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He had one inning . . . well, its hard to explain. He had one inning where nothing seemed to go right for us. Its one of those things where it was obvious that Jed Lowrie turned two and had the guy at second. Pedroia was safe at first in the first inning in my opinion, so there were a couple of things that kind of aggravated me a little bit.

Wakefield was happy with the way his knuckleball danced in the crisp Pacific Northwest air, but he also knows that its less about individual achievements and more about results at this late date in the season. Hes now 0-2 with a 4.08 ERA with 19 strikeouts in the four starts where hes come up short of win No. 200, and the double century mark admittedly danced in his head the first couple of starts after 199.

In the first couple of starts yeah I was thinking about it," Wakefield said. "But now Im just trying to pitch quality starts and quality innings to help get us wins. Its getting to be the time of the year when its time to win games.

The Wakefield quest for 200 wins continues next week in Kansas City with a tilt against the Royals, so stay tuned for the next chapter: it will bring either adulation or frustration to the elder statesmen of Major League Baseball.

It might also bring a conclusion to Wake Watch 2011.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
---
Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
---
Matt Andriese P

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.