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Wakefield wants to come back

His sights set on career win mark

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 29, 2011

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BALTIMORE - Tim Wakefield told Fox Sports yesterday he wants to return to the Red Sox next season to chase the team’s career victories record.

“I’ve definitely made up my mind that I definitely want to come back next year,’’ Wakefield said. “I have another goal in front of me that I’d like to accomplish, and that’s the all-time record for the Red Sox in wins. I’m only seven away. I think the fans deserve an opportunity to watch me chase that record. We’ll see what happens.’’

Wakefield has 186 victories with the Sox in 17 seasons. Roger Clemens and Cy Young hold the franchise record of 192. Wakefield, 45, was 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA this season.

Wakefield just finished the final year of a two-year contract that paid him $2 million this season.

Buchholz activated Clay Buchholz was activated off the disabled list and available in the bullpen.

“I would only be able to go an inning or so, a couple of innings, maybe,’’ Buchholz said before last night’s 4-3 season-ending loss to the Orioles.

Buchholz has not appeared in a major league game since June 16 because of a back injury. He threw one inning (18 pitches) in an Instructional League game Monday. His most strenuous bullpen session - 40 pitches - came last week.

“I feel like my pitches are there and my arm feels good,’’ Buchholz said.

Buchholz has appeared in relief twice in the regular season (in 2007 and ’08) and never in the postseason. The 27-year-old was 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 16 starts this season before he went down.

Ivy climber Until the Sox called up Ryan Lavarnway in August, the last position player from Yale to make the major leagues was outfielder Dick Tettlebach, who had 80 at-bats for the Yankees and Senators from 1955-57.

There have been several pitchers who went from the halls of academia in New Haven to the majors, most notably former Mets star Ron Darling and current Oakland reliever Craig Breslow. But hitters have been rare.

That is what has Yale coach John Stuper so excited about Lavarnway getting his chance.

“I’m living and dying with all of his at-bats,’’ Stuper said. “This is a terrific thing for the school and for our program. And you couldn’t ask for a better kid than Ryan.’’

Lavarnway started behind the plate for the first time Tuesday and hit two home runs to help the Sox to a critical 8-7 victory. He was back in the lineup last night, but went hitless in five at-bats.

Stuper knows what it’s like to perform well in a pressure game. He started Game 6 of the 1982 World Series for the Cardinals and threw a four-hitter in a 13-1 victory. St. Louis won the Series the next day.

Stuper spent parts of four seasons in the majors, winning 32 games before retiring in 1986. He became the coach at Yale in 1993. Lavarnway is one of the players he is most proud of.

“He’s a self-made player,’’ said Stuper. “I’d like to tell you I had something to do with it, but he worked tremendously hard. He wasn’t a prospect we knew was going to be a star.’’

Lavarnway hit .467 as a sophomore, leading the nation. He followed that up by hitting .398 with 13 home runs as a junior. The Sox drafted him in the sixth round in 2008.

“We tried him at first base and in right field before he caught,’’ Stuper said. “I still think he could play the outfield because he knew the right angles and that made up for his not being the fastest guy out there. But he was determined to catch.

“The Red Sox have done a great job with him. I’m glad he’s with the Sox because I see the games on NESN at home. I’m cheering like crazy for him.’’

Lavarnway is only the third player in major league history to hit two home runs in his first start behind the plate. Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia did it on Aug. 7, 2010, and Bobby Pfeil, an infielder pressed into catching for the Phillies, homered twice on July 27, 1971.

Pfeil made only two starts at catcher, and those two home runs were the only ones of his career.

Lavarnway was behind the plate last night, Terry Francona deciding to ride the hot hand, but he went 0 for 5 and left nine runners on base.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (right shoulder) and Jason Varitek (right knee) were still dealing with injuries.

“Salty could go,’’ said Francona. “I don’t think he’s close to 100 percent. But, again, we have a kid who just drove in four runs and caught a pretty good game and feels good about himself.’’

Painful ending When the Sox activated Buchholz from the 60-day disabled list, they made room on the 40-man roster by putting Kevin Youkilis on the 60-day DL with a hernia and other injuries. Youkilis, who will be 33 at the start of next season, hit a career-low .258 this season . . . Given all the excitement in baseball over the wild-card races, Francona was asked before the game about the idea of adding a second wild-card team in each league. “I think they should have changed the rule yesterday and added one more team,’’ he said. After getting a laugh, Francona said he thinks the drama is good for baseball. “I don’t think it’s good for us,’’ he said. “It’s hard. It’s difficult for us. It’s nerve-racking. But it’s got to be great for the game. There’s so much interest.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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