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Agent pleads Wakefield’s case

Knuckleballer wants to return

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / November 17, 2011

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MILWAUKEE—Tim Wakefield’s agent issued what amounted to a challenge to the Red Sox yesterday. Barry Meister said if the Sox don’t bring the 45-year-old knuckleballer back, “he’s going to win 15 games somewhere else.’’

“Tim’s going to play again, absolutely,’’ Meister said. “I hope it’s with Boston and I’ve expressed that to them. I feel strongly that he can pitch and pitch effectively, whether it’s in a starter’s role or in that hybrid role.

“I just think if he didn’t pitch for the Boston Red Sox it would be a shame. If not, we’ve got a lot of teams that have called and we’re entertaining their offers.’’

Meister attended the general managers meetings, in part, to speak to the Red Sox and other teams about Wakefield. The Red Sox are focused on their search for a new manager and told Meister they would keep in touch.

General manager Ben Cherington said he had respect for Wakefield, but did not commit to the idea of the righthander coming back.

“I think we owe it to Tim to be able to present to him exactly what the opportunity would be, if any,’’ Cherington said.

Wakefield was 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 33 games (23 starts) last season. He was 2-5 with a 5.55 ERA after the All-Star break and had a 6.30 ERA in his final four starts, contributing to the team’s historic September collapse.

But Meister sees only good times ahead for Wakefield.

“He loves being a Red Sox and he loves being a baseball player,’’ Meister said. “If for some reason they don’t feel like he can play, well he’s going to win 15 games somewhere else and show them that, once again, they’ve underestimated him.’’

Wakefield last won 15 games in 2007.

“He loves Boston,’’ Meister said. “Whether it’s his charity or the Jimmy Fund, this is his community and he feels like he can help this club. He feels like he has unfinished business.

“He wants to win. He wants to put another ring on his finger. He wants a parade. He’s from Boston now. He lives there. He feels pretty strongly about it.’’

Wakefield has been with the Red Sox for 17 seasons and has won 186 games, six shy of tying Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the franchise record. In September, he was quoted as saying that fans deserved to see him break that record.

Meister said what Wakefield meant to say was that he wanted to stay in Boston and help the team win another World Series.

But Wakefield and Meister are considering alternatives, particularly in the National League. The agent said his research shows that knuckleballers who switch to the NL show a significant improvement in ERA.

Wakefield, who started his career in Pittsburgh, could benefit from playing in bigger parks against weaker lineups.

“It’s a huge difference as the league takes a year to adjust,’’ Meister said. “I have no doubt if that’s what he ends up doing, he’ll have geometric success because they’ll be seeing a pitch they haven’t seen before.’’

But Meister reiterated that Wakefield wants to return to Boston.

“It would be a shame if the Red Sox didn’t feel like Tim could help them,’’ he said. “I think he realizes that there’s more to be done. My guess is he wants to play one more year. My guess is if he signed with the Red Sox today, he’d probably announce at the same time that this was it and he was going to go out with a parade. That’s what he wants.’’

Meeting Cespedes

Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will hold a private workout for the Red Sox in the Dominican Republic this weekend, according to his agent, Adam Katz.

Cespedes fled Cuba over the summer and is working to establish residence in the Dominican. That would allow him to become a free agent. The Sox are one of many teams interested.

“He’s an unusual guy,’’ Katz said. “He’s 26, he’s major league-ready. People are going to evaluate, a value will be established. People will bid competitively, and it will be what it will be.’’

Cespedes is expected to receive a deal in the range of the six-year, $30.25 million Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman landed from the Reds in 2010.

Cespedes is featured in a now-infamous YouTube video that shows highlights of his career in Cuba along with clips of him running sprints and lifting weights. It concludes with scenes of an unidentified shirtless man dancing with two women before footage of Cespedes roasting a pig over an open fire.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it since ‘Spinal Tap,’ ’’ said Katz. “At the end of the day, it was compelling.’’

Francona to sit it out

Terry Francona acknowledged the obvious, telling Comcast Sports New England that he had no plans to manage in 2012. Francona interviewed with the Cardinals but was not selected. The Cubs granted him an informal interview but he was not considered a leading candidate. “When I interviewed in St. Louis, I was genuinely excited about it,’’ Francona told Comcast. “St. Louis was such an exciting opportunity. But we were all beaten up at the end of the year, and after [interviewing], I took a step back and began to look at things realistically.’’ ESPN, Fox, and MLB Network have contacted Francona about doing broadcasting work next season . . . The Red Sox have been in contact with the agents for, among others, Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Jason Marquis, Roy Oswalt, and C.J. Wilson. Cherington met last night with Bob Garber, who represents Oswalt and Wilson . . . Singer John Mellencamp, who performed in Milwaukee last night, passed through the reporter-filled lobby of the Pfister Hotel with his girlfriend, actress Meg Ryan. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria ran over to say hello to Ryan.

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

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