10/23/07 7:02 PM ET
Painful shoulder sidelines Wakefield
Knuckleballer would have started Game 2 at Fenway Park
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The veteran knuckleballer, who also was left off the American League Division Series roster before returning to start Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, has been bothered for nearly two months with pain in the back of his right shoulder.
But missing out on the Fall Classic was a most bitter pill to swallow for Wakefield, who has been with the Red Sox since 1995 -- longer than any other player on the team.
It was Wakefield who started Game 1 of the 2004 World Series against the Cardinals. He would have started Game 2 of this World Series, which would have allowed manager Terry Francona the opportunity to get a couple of days of extra rest for Curt Schilling.
"I really wish I was up here talking about my starting Game 2," said Wakefield. "But, unfortunately, that's not the case today. After long talks with [Francona], [pitching coach] John Farrell and [general manager] Theo [Epstein], with my health and advice from the doctors, it's not going to happen, unfortunately."
Schilling will start Game 2 on the standard four days of rest. Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch Game 3.
Francona didn't commit to a Game 4 starter yet, but lefty Jon Lester, who threw a four-inning simulated game on Tuesday, is the most likely candidate. Francona is keeping it open for now, and noted that weather issues could force a change anyhow.
The Red Sox announced Tuesday night that right-handed reliever Kyle Snyder will take Wakefield's spot on the roster. Snyder, a starter for most of his career, pitched exclusively out the bullpen, going 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in 46 games.
One of the key issues for Wakefield is the unpredictability of his injury. If he had gone in Game 2, Wakefield didn't have much confidence in his ability to be able to bounce back for Game 6.
"Could I pitch Game 2? Probably," said Wakefield, who tied a career high with 17 wins this season. "But are you going to get 100 percent out of Tim Wakefield? I don't know that either, until Thursday. After that, I don't know either, because dealing with this problem that I've had for the past two months, it seems like my recovery time is getting longer and longer and longer, and I just don' think it's fair to the other 24 guys on the team that I go out there and maybe I pitch well and maybe I don't, and then I'm not available for the rest of the series."
In large part because of who Wakefield is and what he has meant to the Red Sox, Francona waited as long as he could before a final decision was made.
"This was not a 10-minute conversation," Francona said. "There has been a lot of talk with Wake, with the medical people, with the pitching coach and Theo. Sometimes arriving at the right thing to do is not the right thing to do is not the fun thing to do. But you have to get there, and it's not always easy."
Mainly because they were trying not to give away a competitive advantage, the Red Sox never divulged a whole lot about Wakefield's injury. When it first cropped up, it was diagnosed publicly as a back injury. Once Wakefield was left off the ALDS roster, it was revealed that the ailment was actually more in the back of the shoulder.
"Over the course of he last two months, we have known where Wake has been, even when the public hasn't," said Francona. "And the recovery time between each start has been getting more difficult and more difficult."
With no more pitches to throw in 2007, Wakefield spoke at length about his situation for the first time on Monday.
"It's just a lot of inflammation in my shoulder and posterior shoulder and my back or the back of my shoulder," said Wakefield. "There's no structural damage based on an MRI that I had in September. The problem that the doctors are uneasy about is my recovery time. If I keep throwing and throwing and throwing with swelling, it may cause impingement, it may tear something."
The 41-year-old would like to pitch beyond 2007. And that also factored into his decision of foregoing the World Series.
"I don't think it's fair to the 24 guys that are in the clubhouse, and I don't think it's fair to the organization, and I don't think it's fair to me, lastly, that I go out there and injure myself and I'm not available for next year or the year after that," said Wakefield.
Francona acknowledged the risk factor Wakefield would have endured by continuing to pitch.
"With increased inflammation in the shoulder area comes a decrease of strength," Francona said. "So with that happening, you're always putting somebody at more risk every time they pitch."
So Wakefield will shut it down, which was probably as painful to him as the actual injury.
"As a competitor, I want to be out there competing," said Wakefield. "This is the ultimate stage, this is what I've worked hard from Spring Training to get to this point, and now I can't be available. I mean, it [stinks], to put it bluntly."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.