Wakefield to get cortisone shot Monday
Red Sox righty hopes it will enable him to return in a week
BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Tim Wakefield woke up feeling a little better on Sunday and his limp was less noticeable. The next step toward recovery from recurring back pain will be a cortisone shot on Monday, something the veteran knuckleballer hopes will enable him to reclaim his spot in the rotation in about a week.
Wakefield doesn't plan on another six-week disabled-list stint, something that happened last time when the back problem turned into a nerve issue that caused weakness in his left leg.
"We'll go from there and see if it takes, and if so, I'll be pitching in a week or so and be back," said Wakefield.
Though Wakefield pitched seven terrific innings (one run) in his first start back on Wednesday night, he realized quickly that something might be awry with his back again.
"I felt it during the game, like in the third inning," said Wakefield. "I felt my hip kind of cramp up, but I was able to kind of pitch through it because of the adrenaline and I was warm and everything. The next day, it was just sore -- just the same symptoms as it was in Texas [in July].
"It was just getting worse and worse. Talking to the doctors, it takes a while for the inflammation to get back in there. It stinks, because in two rehab starts, I felt fine. I don't think there was anything I did during the game that would provoke this injury to come back or the feeling that I had to come back.
"There is a fragmented piece that's floating in there, it's like a bone spur basically that's irritating the nerve. It's just a matter of getting it to the right position where it's not going to bother me, and hopefully the cortisone shot will do that."
For the short term -- as in the rest of the season -- the 43-year-old Wakefield hopes that the shot will do the trick. But he now knows that he's all but certain to have surgery once the season ends. The good news is that the recovery is expected be minimal.
"I think surgery is inevitable in this situation," said Wakefield. "It's not a complete discectomy. I think it's a situation where they're just going to have to go in there and pull that spur out or that piece out. I think that in itself will relieve a lot of the symptoms, and it's not a huge deal where I'm going to be on the shelf rehabbing for two months. It's more of a two-week type of thing. Let the wound of the surgery heal up and then be ready to go."
How long does Wakefield think the cortisone shot will take to alleviate the discomfort?
"I don't know," he said. "I think we're going to be a little more aggressive with it this time than last time. [Get the] shot Monday, maybe start playing catch on Wednesday. We'll see how it feels. If it doesn't feel good, then we'll wait another day and make a decision then."
Wakefield has been one of Boston's best starting pitchers this season, going 11-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 18 starts.
"Regardless of what it is, it's tough to not be able to contribute like I want to," said Wakefield. "I'm doing the best I can to try to get back on the field as fast as possible, because I know they're running out of time and we're in the middle of a pennant race here. Along with our training staff and the doctors, I'm doing what I can to try to get back out there."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.