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These are old-timer’s days

Wakefield hits the record age

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 11, 2011

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TORONTO — When it was jokingly suggested to Tim Wakefield yesterday that being on the verge of becoming the oldest player ever to play in a game for the Red Sox was nothing more than old news, the 44-year-old knuckleballer chuckled.

“No pun intended?’’ he asked, grinning.

How about an oldie but a goodie, then?

“Yeah, exactly,’’ Wakefield said before last night’s 7-6 10-inning loss to the Blue Jays.

Wakefield yesterday turned 44 years and 281 days old. He was poised to surpass Deacon Maguire who was 44 years 280 days in his last game with the Red Sox, on Aug. 24, 1908 — for the team record.

For Wakefield, his 17 years with the Red Sox and 19 years in the majors are a point of honor.

“Absolutely,’’ he said. “I’m very honored. It means I’ve been able to persevere through a lot and I feel very blessed and lucky at the same time.’’

Wakefield said he intends to keep playing “until they tell me I stink or they don’t want me anymore. But I haven’t given it any thought.’’

Asked if he saw himself ending his career elsewhere, Wakefield said, “Depends on the situation. I mean, I want to retire a Red Sox, but I’m not going to rule that out. The situation has got to be right.’’

Signed by the Sox as a minor league free agent April 26, 1995, Wakefield is the majors’ active leader in wins (193) and innings (3,093 2/3). Wakefield has made two starts this season, giving him at least one start in each of his 17 seasons with the club.

“You don’t really reflect on stuff like that until it really happens, but it’s a pretty cool thing,’’ he said.

Two days after absorbing a 9-2 loss against the Twins Friday night, Wakefield told manager Terry Francona he was available to pitch out of the bullpen.

“Yeah, him saying he’s good to go, we appreciate it,’’ Francona said. “Still, 84 pitches with two days off, it’s a lot to ask. I know he throws a knuckleball, but I just don’t want to hurt anybody.

“He’ll be fine. Actually, the first game he pitched, he bounced back and said the next day, ‘I can pitch,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re not,’ but it was good that he felt that way.’’

Wakefield said that when he was younger, he was amazed by those guys who played well into their 40s.

Charlie Hough was in his 40s, Nolan Ryan was in his 40s,’’ he said. “It was pretty amazing to see those guys still pitching, but I also knew how hard they worked to stay fit.

“I learned that later in my 30s. It’s like, ‘You’re not 20 anymore, you can’t go out there and play every single day or throw.’ When you get up in age, you’ve really got to take care of yourself.’’

Pitching change Francona confirmed he will reshuffle the rotation for this weekend’s three-game series in New York.

The Sox are pushing back Daisuke Matsuzaka to Monday night vs. Baltimore at Fenway Park. Clay Buchholz will start the opener vs. the Yankees Friday night, followed by Josh Beckett Saturday night and Jon Lester Sunday night.

“We’re giving Daisuke a couple of extra days because we’re trying to spread out a couple of guys and also lining up for how it seems to make sense,’’ Francona said. “Trying to kill a bunch of birds with one stone.’’

Francona said the extra rest likely would do Matsuzaka good, considering his recent pace.

He had a start cut short by a tight elbow, then was pressed into his first career relief appearance in the 13th inning of the marathon last Wednesday night/Thursday morning vs. the Angels. He got the win in a start Sunday against the Twins.

“There was a lot of pushing and pulling,’’ Francona said.

“We didn’t know what was going on, and so it not only sets us up for the week the way we want to be, I think we can accomplish a lot of things with this.’’

Okajima sits one out Hideki Okajima wasn’t available last night after throwing a career-high 43 pitches in Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Twins in 11 innings. Francona is pleased with the way the lefthander has pitched. “He’s done a pretty good job,’’ said the manager. “He’s got to locate his fastball. He’ll flip that breaking ball over to certain hitters and has that changeup. If he doesn’t locate, he can give up some runs, but if he locates, he’s fine. But the location of his fastball is huge.’’ . . . With his RBI single to right in the second inning, Carl Crawford extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Asked if he has considered moving Crawford up in the order, Francona said, “Yeah. First couple weeks of the year, we were kind of bouncing everybody around and we were having a tough time and I don’t prefer to do that. But if you move Carl, then you’ve got to move other people, too.’’ . . . With his single to right to lead off the game, Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 19 games. He is now hitting .300 on the season and .376 (32 for 85) during the streak. He went 3 for 6 last night, his fourth three-hit game of the season . . . Pawtucket outfielder Juan Carlos Linares is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left ankle. Linares, 26, was hitting .233 with three home runs. He hit .320 this spring in major league camp . . . . . . Of the six homers hit last night, five led off innings.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com; Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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