Wakefield grateful to win 200th at Fenway Park

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Wakefield grateful to win 200th at Fenway Park

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON After the game, his 200th career win safely in the record books, Tim Wakefield acknowledged there were times when he thought this one might not actually happen.

It did cross my mind after six or seven starts, said Wakefield, who made seven unsuccessful attempts at No. 200 since his last win on July 24. But I kept telling myself the milestone doesnt determine me as a person. Ive always said Ive been grateful to wear this uniform as long as I have, and been very fortunate to live out a dream I had as a kid. Im just grateful it happened tonight and very grateful it happened in front of our home crowd. The standing ovation I got when I walked off the mound in the fifth and sixth, and to be able to go back out after the game was over and share it with the people that were here, was very special.

Wakefields first win came July 31, 1992, against the Cardinals, while with the Pirates. Just 14 of his wins were with Pittsburgh, his home for the first two seasons of his 19-year career. He joined the Sox in 1995 after going 5-15 for Buffalo, the Pirates Triple-A squad, in 1994.

I was just happy to have a job after that year in 94, he said. I went to spring training and I was 5-15 in Triple A. I went into spring training with the Pirates that year and getting released after one start. I was very grateful that former Sox general manager Dan Duquette called me and wanted to sign me.

It was difficult for him to describe his emotions after the win, an 18-6 shellacking of the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Theyre just setting in right now, he said. Im grateful that, one, its over with; two, that it was able to happen here in Fenway Park in front if our home crowd and going outside and seeing the signs and all the people and my teammates came out in support. It says a lot about everything thats gone on in my career and tonight. Im kind of speechless when it comes to that.

Im very grateful that I was able to wear this uniform as long as I have and reach the milestone that I thought Id never reach. Just very grateful.

His team was grateful, too. The win came at a desperately needed time for the Sox, who had lost five in a row, six of seven on the recent road trip, and seven of eight.

It was great, said Dustin Pedroia, who went 4-for-5 with two home runs. Weve been trying to help Wakefield win his 200th for a while, but we gave him run support and he went out there, last few innings he settled in and did a great job. Were all so proud of him. Its pretty unbelievable what hes been able to accomplish.

Wakefield gave up five runs on two home runs over the first three innings before settling down to retire 11 of the final 13 batters he faced. He went six innings, giving up five runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts, two home runs and a hit batter.

The significance of the night was obviously very special, said manager Terry Francona. He gave up some runs early, our bats came alive. I thought going out for the sixth inning at the time was important. He had a nice quick sixth.

Its kind of neat to see the way the guys responded to Wake in the clubhouse and the way the fans responded to Wake on the field. I thought that was pretty appropriate and probably only in a place like Boston would you see something like that happen.

Im just so happy for him, said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Its an honor for me to be able to be back there and catch him, get that 200th win, and be a part of history. But also to see what hes done in his career, pitch as long as hes pitched, and be able to finally get this. it makes you feel good. It gives you goosebumps. After we scored a few runs I had goosebumps the rest of the game.

Wakefield now has other milestones on his radar, including 192 wins with the Red Sox, which would tie him for the franchise record with Cy Young and Roger Clemens. He now has 186 wins with the Sox.

Thats the next goal, Wakefield said. The most important thing right now is doing my work and getting ready for my next start and try to push us into the postseason. That was everybodys goal in the spring to make it to the postseason and win another World Series. Im grateful to take a lot of pressure off my teammates and I know theyve been feeling it. But nows the time to concentrate on winning as many games as we can and getting to October.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.