McAdam: Wakefield earns another precious win


McAdam: Wakefield earns another precious win

By SeanMcAdam

BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield will turn 45 later this summer, and in a concession to his age, does not move as fast as he once did.

A number of injuries, including a back ailment which required a surgical procedure after the 2009 season, have slowed him some. It's part of the aging process. The pace has been taken down a notch. Even the wins don't come as quickly as they once did.

That's largely a result of a changing role, which has Wakefield mostly pitching out of the bullpen in long relief, and often only when the game has already gotten out of hand.

But every once in a while, the Red Sox call on him to make a start again, to fill in for an injured member of the rotation. They've done so three times this year already and twice now, he's pitched brilliantly.

The first time, he outpitched reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, but was left with a no-decision when the Sox offense stalled while he was on the mound.

Sunday night, both he and the Boston lineup were good enough to earn his first win of the season and first since Sept. 8, 2010, more than eight months ago.

The drought stretched across 14 appearances, the longest of his career. And like everything else at this stage, it was welcomed with more appreciation by Wakefield.

"On the personal side, every win is precious,'' he said. "But as long as the team wins . . . that's the most important thing.''

The victory was the 194th of his career, inching him closer to 200 career wins. His goal of becoming the all-time winningest pitcher in Red Sox history has likely been dashed -- he sits at 180, needing 13 more to top Roger Clemens and Cy Young and his contract is up at the end of this season with no guarantee the Red Sox will invite him to return for 2011.

But regardless of the end goal, each win can be savored now, because there is no guarantee that they are going to continue. He left to a standing ovation, and in recognition, tipped his cap.

Wakefield was extremely efficient Sunday, averaging fewer than nine pitches an inning through the first three frames. In the seventh, when he allowed a leadoff double by Starlin Castro, a long flyout to the warning track in right to Carlos Pena and a run-scoring double to Jeff Baker, it was clear that he was leaving pitches up in the zone.

Even then, after 6 23 innings, he had thrown just 75 pitches, largely saving the Boston bullpen.

"That's the thing that we all admire about him,'' said Dustin Pedroia. "We asked him to step in two or three times this year so far and every time he's come out and thrown the ball great. He's accepted the role and he's a first-class guy. That's why we all love him.''

"He was terrific,'' marveled Terry Francona. "The role's changed a little bit now, but what a lift that gives us. You throw a guy in there when somebody's hurt and he's so professional. I guess it shouldn't amaze us because he's been doing it for such a long time.''

Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves are temporary additions to the Red Sox rotation, filling in for the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey. In two starts this weekend, the two combined to limit the Cubs to just two runs over 11 23 innings.

If the Sox get those kind of outings until the others return, they'll be in fine shape. In the meantime, Tim Wakefield intends to take it all in. If this is to be his victory lap, it's nice to get some actual victories along the way.

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

After strong bullpen session, Koji Uehara could be back by Labor Day

BOSTON - For a bullpen that could use all the help it can get right now, there's the prospect that Koji Uehara could rejoin the Red Sox on Labor Day.

Uehara, who's been out since July 20 with a strained pectoral muscle, threw a bullpen Monday at Fenway that impressed John Farrell.

"He came out of today's work session in good fashion,'' said Farrell. "It was 25 pitches to hitters with good intensity to both his fastball and split. It's been impressive to see how he's handled the volume, and now, three times on the mound, the intensity to his bullpens and BP.''

Next up for Uehara will be a bullpen session Wednesday morning, followed by a live batting practice session Saturday in Oakland.

Since both Pawtucket's and Portland's seasons are over on Labor Day, Uehara won't have the option of going on a rehab assignment to face hitters before being activated.

But the Sox believe that he can build arm strength through these side sessions and BP sessions -- enough so that he could return to the active roster soon.

"We'll re-assess where is after Sunday,'' said Farrell, "and I wouldn't rule out activation [after that]. What we've done with Koji is just review how he feels after each session and we'll take it from there.''

Uehara, 41, is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA, and while he's had a propensity for giving up homers (eight in just 36 innings), he had been throwing better before being injured.

And given the performance of the bullpen in general and the recent poor showings from Matt Barnes, the Sox would welcome Uehara back as soon as he's ready.

"The one thing that Koji has proven to us,'' noted Farrell, "is that, even with limited spring training work [in the past], he's been a very effective pitcher for us and obviously, he has a chance to make a very positive impact once he does return.''

Uehara's progress since late July has been a pleasant surprise for the Sox, who feared at the time of the injury that he might be done for the season.     

"To his credit,'' said Farrell, "he's worked his tail off and advanced fairly rapidly and he's withstanding the intensity that he's put into [the work]. A healthy Koji certainly adds to our bullpen.


Red Sox among ‘roughly half’ of MLB who’ll attend Tebow workout Tuesday

Red Sox among ‘roughly half’ of MLB who’ll attend Tebow workout Tuesday

Maybe Tim Tebow could be the eighth-inning guy? 

OK, OK. Maybe not. Still, the Red Sox will be among the “roughly half” of the MLB teams who will attend the former Heisman Trophy winner and Patriots’ 2013 training camp phenomenon’s baseball tryout on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Tebow is 29 and hasn’t played organized baseball since he was a junior in high school. He was an All-State performer in Florida back then.

Based on his accuracy and mechanics throwing a football, maybe DH would suit Tebow better than the mound.