03/18/11 11:30 PM ET
Wakefield trying to earn spot on roster
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
"I think I've been pretty good at living in the moment," he said. "I never looked at past performances, or, you know five starts from now or five appearances from now. That's how I've been my whole career, really."
Not a bad trait for the 44-year-old, who's seven wins shy of 200, to have right now.
Before Wakefield gave up four home runs in a six-batter span and was chased by the Rays after three innings Friday night, Terry Francona offered no assurance earlier in the day that he would be on the Opening Day roster.
"We're going to have some interesting decisions to make here come this last week," the Red Sox manager said.
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The answer was in response to a question about Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves, how they're similar -- Wakefield's knuckleball aside. They both can start as comfortably as they can relieve, and it's possible that there may not be room for both on the 25-man roster. But Francona won't say.
"I wouldn't do that to these guys," he said. "These guys have a stressful couple weeks ahead of them. I'm not going to make it worse if I sit here and tell you everybody who's in the bullpen, then whoever's not -- that's not a good way to do it."
Wakefield was in a bad way Friday night. He gave up leadoff doubles hit hard down the right-field line in the first and second inning, but that was innocuous enough compared to the succession that started with two out in the second.
First it was Kelly Shoppach, who hit a 2-0 pitch for a two-run homer. Two batters later, two more runs came on Ben Zobrist's homer.
Wakefield got out of the second, only to give up two more homers consecutively to start the third. The first was to Evan Longoria, the next to Manny Ramirez.
That's dejecting, no matter how long one's been around.
A knuckler that stays high in the zone has always spelled trouble, though Wakefield said he and pitching coach Curt Young felt like the pitch was moving well. To Wakefield, it has been all spring.
"I know the one Longoria hit out, I couldn't believe he hit it, because it was like he was way out in front, kind of scooped it," Wakefield said. "I just knew myself from a mechanical standpoint, I felt like I was rushing to the plate with my body and not allowing my arm to catch up. The sharpness of the knuckleball's not going to be there the way that I want it to be."
Wakefield's Grapefruit League ERA is 7.45 -- seven runs in eight innings. He had allowed just one earned run in five innings entering the day. He gave up seven hits on Friday, too, but also struck out two and walked just one.
For as adamant as Wakefield is that he doesn't look to the future, though, he might be more adamant about how little he cares about spring stats. He never paid attention to any of them, he said. Not whether a good spring correlates to a good April, nothing.
"You want to pitch well, obviously," Wakefield said. "But my biggest concern is staying healthy all spring, and obviously, building my innings up and getting ready to pitch in April sometime."
In the last year of his contract and long on the brink of retirement, Wakefield's always preferred starting. Last spring, it was possible that Wakefield could win a spot in the rotation. That's not the case this season, barring an injury involved in the final two weeks.
Wakefield's next outing is to be a Minor League game on Thursday at the Sox Minor League complex, potentially his last start before camp ends. He said he doesn't need many outings in relief to be ready out of the pen, he just needs to build arm strength. Francona agreed.
So Wakefield has the certainty of knowing what his role on the team is, and the certainty of knowing what he needs to do to be ready for the season. There's just no certainty he'll be on the team.