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Wakefield was last line of defense

Posted by Tony Massarotti, Globe Staff  July 15, 2009 11:17 AM

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Red Sox fans might be frustrated that Tim Wakefield did not appear in his first All-Star Game last night, but the pitcher was well aware of his role even before the American League defeated the National League, 4-3.

He was the emergency reliever.

Reached by text message this morning, Wakefield indicated that he was ``the extra-inning guy for multiple innings'' should the AL and NL have played an extended affair to determine home-field advantage for the World Series. Such a happening took place last year, when the AL defeated the NL by a 4-3 score in 15 innings, a game in which then-AL manager Terry Francona was nearly forced to employ outfielder J.D. Drew as a pitcher.

In 2002, of course, the All-Star Game ended in a tie because of a shortage of pitchers. That game went 11 innings and prompted considerable criticism of commissioner Bud Selig, who subsequently awarded home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the All-Star beginning in 2003.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, for one, frequently avoids using at least one his relievers in close games (particularly during the postseason) to guard against running out of pitchers. Earlier this season, for instance, Francona held out Justin Masterson in games against the Yankees partly because he might need Masterson to pitch multiple innings if the game extended well beyond the ninth. In the 2007 playoffs, Francona employed a similar strategy with Jon Lester during the American League Championship Series against the Cleveland Indians.

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