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Wakefield to take Penny’s spot in rotation

Red Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa was able to blow down the Yankees, throwing six innings of shutout ball. Red Sox rookie Junichi Tazawa was able to blow down the Yankees, throwing six innings of shutout ball. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / August 23, 2009

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With Brad Penny having been lit up by the Yankees Friday night, the Red Sox starter was removed from the rotation. Manager Terry Francona said Tim Wakefield will be taking the ball in Penny’s spot Wednesday against the White Sox.

Wakefield will be pitching for the Sox for the first time since July 8, before his lower back started acting up, and the nerve issue worked its way to his calf.

“We talked to Wake this morning, wanted to make sure he had no repercussion from [his second rehab outing with Pawtucket Friday], which I think is kind of common sense,’’ Francona said.

“Just talked to Penny a little bit and told him . . . he’s got to kind of hang tight a little bit.’’

The Sox were clearly waiting to see what transpired with Junichi Tazawa yesterday before determining who would pitch Thursday against Chicago. With Tazawa’s six shutout innings, he made a significant play for the spot.

“I think we’ll have time to talk about that [today],’’ pitching coach John Farrell said. “There’s no decision here, now. But he’s done nothing to take away from his future in the rotation. We’ll certainly factor in today, plus all those other starts, as well as Brad’s.’’

Penny, asked to comment on his situation as he was heading out to stretch, declined and said, “I don’t know anything anyway.’’

Since June 23, Penny’s ERA is 6.38, and he has just one win in his last 11 starts.

Wakefield got the win Friday, going 5 2/3 innings against Rochester, allowing one run, two hits, and one walk.

“I think he really improved enough [Friday] and, again, there should be some improvement before he pitches again that everybody thinks he can pitch and win,’’ said Francona. “Again, I don’t think he’s going to win a track meet. I didn’t think he was before. But he can cover his position and he’s a really good pitcher, so I think we’re OK.’’

Wakefield reported that he felt ready to get back to the bigs.

“It hasn’t been an injury that you get a shot for, take medicine for, and it’s going to get better quicker,’’ said Wakefield, who is 11-3 with a 4.31 ERA this season.

Hello and goodbye
The Sox officially sent Michael Bowden back to Pawtucket, ending his brief stint with the major league club. But that had not been the plan.

“I told Michael [Friday] when he came, ‘The idea is not to have you here for one day,’ ’cause that’s what we told him last time,’’ Francona said. “I said, ‘Barring something unforeseen, we’d like to keep you here.’ ’’

A 20-11 Yankees victory in which Bowden allowed 8 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs and threw 2 wild pitches in 2 innings would qualify as “unforeseen.’’

“We didn’t feel comfortable after [Friday] not having somebody in the bullpen with length,’’ said Francona. “Losing is terrible. Ruining your bullpen’s worse, so we want to protect that as much as we can.’’

The Sox brought up Enrique Gonzalez to replace Bowden, who will be slotted back in the Pawtucket rotation. Gonzalez finished the blowout with two scoreless innings.

In tribute
Before he played yesterday, Kevin Youkilis inscribed “GM’’ in marker on his cap. He then hit two home runs, which he did not believe was a coincidence. Both times as he crossed home, he looked up and pointed to the sky.

Youkilis played minor league ball with Greg Montalbano, a lefthander from Worcester who pitched at Northeastern. They remained friends after they parted as teammates. In the time that Youkilis forged his major league career, Montalbano fought cancer. Late Friday, Montalbano passed away. He was 31. (Obituary, B9.)

Playing in tribute to Montalbano, Youkilis spearheaded the Red Sox offense in their 14-1 victory over the Yankees. In addition to the two homers, he had a double and a total of six RBIs. All along, his thoughts remained with Montalbano.

“That,’’ Youkilis said, “was for him.’’

After the game, Youkilis watched the Rays-Rangers game on a clubhouse television. He saw Carlos Pena, who played with Montalbano at Northeastern, whack a home run. When Pena returned to the dugout, he flashed a sign for the camera that read, “That was for you, Monty.’’

Youkilis is not deeply spiritual, but he felt a connection.

“Great things happen sometimes in life,’’ Youkilis said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling that two guys who played with him both hit home runs today. It was a great thing.

“Not to get religious or stuff like that, but there are some crazy things that have happened in my life. You always feel like there’s somebody out there somewhere pushing balls for you and doing great things.’’

Lowrie fights on
Jed Lowrie will begin another rehab assignment tomorrow, most likely in Pawtucket, in a last-chance effort to salvage a season derailed from the start by his left wrist. The Sox approached Lowrie about a rehab stint last week, but Lowrie, weary of setbacks, requested three additional days to strengthen his wrist. The starting date of his rehab gives him one week to test his wrist before rosters expand Sept. 1. Between surgery in late April and a nerve issue that surfaced upon his return after the All-Star break, Lowrie has been limited to 19 games.

“It’s getting to the point in the season where it either responds well or it doesn’t,’’ Lowrie said. “There’s no really gray area at this point.’’

“I can’t say that I haven’t thought that [I might be done for the year]. I don’t know if that’s the biggest thought in my head or the one that comes up most. When it feels great, you’re like, ‘Oh, let’s go do it.’ When it feels bad, it’s like, ‘Well, I might be done for the year.’ I think it feels better more than it feels worse.’’

Twice the fun
The Sox have hit at least two home runs in each of their last eight games. It’s the longest such streak in club history . . . Jason Bay had his 12th outfield assist, one short of his career high in 2007. It’s the most outfield assists for the Sox since Manny Ramirez had 17 in 2005 . . . The national anthem was sung by internationally renowned jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli Jr., a longtime Red Sox (and Celtics) fan born and raised in Paterson, N.J. He arrived at Fenway on a bus trip with the BLOHARDS (Benevolent and Loyal Order of Honorable and Ancient Red Sox Diehard Sufferers of New York), a fan group established in 1964.

Bob Ryan and Adam Kilgore of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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