BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield has spent 16 seasons in a Red Sox uniform -- making him, by far, the longest tenured player on the club -- and it's safe to say that last year was his most frustrating since coming to Boston.
Wakefield won just four games, his lowest victory total of his 18-year career, and posted a 5.34 ERA, his highest since 2000. Splitting time between serving as long man in the bullpen and occasional spot starter, Wakefield was unhappy -- sometimes obviously so -- with his role.
But a few weeks from the start of another season and his spot on the staff no more defined, Wakefield Thursday vowed to take a different approach in 2011.
"It was what it was,'' said Wakefield of last season, "and I'm looking forward to a fresh start in 2011. I'm keeping more of an open mind as to what my role might be and kind of accepted it. We'll go forward and see what happens.
"I want to try to contribute to us winning another World Series championship before I retire . . . Things are more known than it was last year. I don't want to dwell on last year and I want to look past that and accept whatever role is given to me.''
Acceptance took some time for Wakefield, but with the benefit of the last four months, Wakefield has come to deal with the adjustment.
"It's tough to accept change,'' he said before the start of the 72nd annual Boston Baseball Writers Awards dinner, "especially coming off the season I had in 2009 when I made the All-Star team and pretty much sacrificed the whole second half with a back injury. It's hard. Every athlete will tell you they want to be in that starting position and help the club win.
"You just try to get through the season as emotionally unscathed as possible and sometimes that's hard to accomplish. You have to go through the mental ups-and-downs of a six-month season. We were able to get through that last year and I look forward to 2011. Having more of an open mind for what's in store and what can happen, I'll have a little better perspective on things.''
As spring training draws closer, the Red Sox' rotation seems set with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka all returning.
Wakefield hasn't discussed his role on the 2011 staff yet with Terry Francona, but expects it to be mostly unchanged. He'll pitch in relief when the Sox need some length out of their bullpen, and be available to fill in should the rotation encounter injuries or performance issues.
"Anything can happen,'' said Wakefield. "It's one of those things, when you're in a competitive market like we are here in Boston and competing in the American League East, you want to make sure you have (pitching) in reserve.''
After the addition of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, Wakefield labeled the 2011 Sox ''one of the best teams I've seen on paper. I've seen some good ones in my tenure here, but this is going to be exciting.''
While adding a third World Series ring is his ultimate goal, there are personal milestones for which to aim. Wakefield is just seven wins away from career victory No. 200 and though last year hurt his chances to become the franchise's all-time winningest pitcher -- Wakefield has 179; Cy Young and Roger Clemens are tied for the record currently at 192 -- he hasn't totally given up hope of topping that.
"Still might be -- you never know,'' said Wakefield with a broad smile. "I'm still wearing a uniform . . . It's a big motivator for me, especially in the offseason trying to get ready and knowing what lies ahead. There's a lot of factors that motivate me to continue to play and wear a Red Sox uniform.''