McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

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McAdam: Unhappy return coming for Wakefield

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Two morning-after musings:

If, as it certainly seems, Andrew Miller is about to soon join the Red Sox starting rotation, Tim Wakefield is going to be displaced, one way or another.

While one report had the Red Sox planning to slot Miller into the current mix, and, at least for a while, go with six starters, Wakefield will eventually be the odd man out.

There's no rationale for removing Josh Beckett, who sports the lowest ERA of any American League starter, or Jon Lester, who leads in A.L. in wins.

Clay Buchholz (3.59 ERA) has earned a permanent spot in the rotation, and John Lackey gets to stay based on his paycheck. The Sox aren't about to have a long man making almost 17 million per season -- there's too much invested.

That leaves Wakefield, who has a habit of finding himself squeezed out of the picture.

Wakefield pitched brilliantly Tuesday night in defeat, allowing just one earned run over seven innings. He's sure to be unhappy with the idea of being passed over, or, at the very least, moved around.

Though he's not primarily motivated by personal gain, each start Wakefield doesn't get makes his twin goals of 200 career wins (he sits at 196) and becoming the all-time winningest Red Sox pitcher (he's currently 11 away from topping Cy Young and Roger Clemens) become more remote.

Wakefield's current deal expires at the end of the season and while he's been a valuable depth piece on the Red Sox' staff for the last few years, there's no guarantee of his return for 2012 and beyond.

It will take a strong sell job by Terry Francona to have Wakefield remain invested in the team should he again be shifted to the role of bullpen long man.

Tuesday night was one more example of how difficult an opponent the Rays are for the Red Sox.

Boston's run of mighty offensive outbursts was shut down by the Rays and James Shields, and, with it, the team's nine-game winning streak was snapped.

Perhaps that shouldn't be terribly surprising, given the recent history between the two clubs, especially here.

Overall, the Rays have won 10 of their last 13 since June 30 of last season. And since the beginning of 2008, the Rays are a torrid 20-8 -- which translates into a winning percentage of .714 -- against the Sox at Tropicana Field.

It's tough to put a finger on Tampa Bay's dominance. In the past, it could be argued that the Rays' athleticism was a bad matchup for the Red Sox, who couldn't slow the Rays' running game.

Except this: Carl Crawford, once their foremost athletic player and all-around catalyst, now plays for the Red Sox.

And the Rays are no longer nearly as athletic as they were with Crawford, but are still, somehow, 3-0 against the Sox this year.

It can't be Tampa Bay's home-field advantage, either, since the crowds at the Trop are modest, and often, about 30-40 percent full of Red Sox boosters.

Crawford himself provided an interesting tidbit following Tuesday's 4-0 loss to his former team.

"I know those guys over there,'' said Crawford. "Whenever it's the Red Sox in town, they take it up a notch.''

Perhaps the Rays are particularly motivated by the turnout of Red Sox fans in their home ballpark, making them all the more determined to beat their guests. And it's a fair bet to believe that Joe Maddon reminds his team of the huge payroll advantages both the Red Sox and Yankees hold.

Whatever is being said, it's working. And it's going to make it very difficult for the Red Sox to run away with the division if they can't beat the Rays head-to-head.

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

McAdam: Amid the champagne flowing, a focus on Farrell’s fight

McAdam: Amid the champagne flowing, a focus on Farrell’s fight

NEW YORK - Scenes from a celebrating clubhouse, late Wednesday night:

*As champagne flowed and was sprayed to every virtually corner of the visitor's clubhouse, plots were being hatched.

Some mischevious players gathered to plot out their plan of attack and select a new victim.

Once all teammates had been targeted, the focus shifted to others -- preferably the nicer dressed visitors.

Principal owner John Henry, dressed in a suit, was spared - both out of decorum, and, one senses, self-preservation. In past years, someone like Kevin Millar might have entertained such a notion, but this group lacks that same sort of bold figure.

Then, finally, the group spied manager John Farrell being interviewed across the way. The group -- mostly pitchers -- assembled and then circled the manager before finally dumping bottle after bottle of champagne on Farrell's head.

But this display went beyond prank. There was a genuine affection for the manager as the surrounding players whooped and hollared and the the bubbly flowed.

"He's a fighter,'' remarked Mookie Betts. "He instilled that in us. You fight to win.''

Torey Lovullo, who managed the team in Farrell's absence last year and has been a close friend for years, was overcome with emotion.

"I told him I loved him,'' Lovullo said. "For what he's done, to come out on the other side health-wise....he's the leader of this team. It's very satisfying for all of us that have been behind him.''

Players messed his hair, patted him on the back, and Farrell, with a huge smile, stood and -- literally -- soaked it in.

For the past few days, Farrell had gone to great lengths to turn the focus away from his personal story -- one that saw him beat back cancer a year ago -- and turn it back to the players.

Hours before the clinching, Farrell had deflected a few questions about his own story, insisting he wasn't the centerpiece to what had taken place.

But for a few minutes Wednesday night, he was.

 

*While there were prominent veterans celebrating a division title — from 40-something David Ortiz and Koji Uehara to team greybeards such as Dustin Pedroia -- it was hard not to notice the number of young players under 26 who form the Red Sox’ foundation.

Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada are all young and still improving.

With Ortiz headed to retirement, Uehara eligible for free agency and uncertainty surrounding others, it's clear that the young core will form the nucleus of Red Sox teams for years to come.

The organization's hope is that that same group will help ensure against the up-and-down trajectory of recent seasons -- last, first, last, last and now first again.

"I think the way baseball's going these days,'' Henry told the Boston Herald, "if you don't have good young players, you're in trouble.''

"Looking ahead,'' added Pedroia, "we've got a lot of young players who are just going to get better.''