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Wakefield to start Wednesday; Penny's role uncertain

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  August 22, 2009 02:24 PM

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Tim Wakefield will take Brad Penny's start in the rotation Wednesday night. (Jim Davis / Globe Staff)

Tim Wakefield and Brad Penny both made starts last night that were pivotal to the rest of their season, and their divergent results left today's reality: Wakefield will start Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox while Penny's future with the Red Sox is in limbo, manager Terry Francona said.

Wakefield, rehabbing in Triple A Pawtucket, had to prove himself ready to not just pitch in a big league game, but also field his position despite a nerve issue sapping his left calf of strength. Penny, starting against the Yankees, had to prove himself effective enough to remain in the Red Sox rotation.

Wakefield allowed one run and two hits in 5 2/3 innings. Penny allowed eight runs and 10 hits in four-plus miserable innings at Fenway Park.

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Brad Penny (AP)

The Sox decided Wakefield would make his first start since the All-Star break. As for Penny, how Junichi Tazawa fares tonight may determine his fate. Since June 23, Penny has one win in 11 starts and a 6.37 ERA. Francona talked to Penny this morning.

"I told him he's got to hang tight a little bit," Francona said. "We'll get through today, and then we'll tell him where we go from there."

Wakefield had not pitched since early July because of nerve injury in his back, which moved down his leg and to his calf. Wakefield has walked with a limp and has difficult fielding bunts and covering first base. After making two rehab starts, the Red Sox are satisfied the quality of his pitching offsets his diminished athleticism.

"We want him to be able to help us win," Francona said. "I think we felt like, arm-wise, he was probably better than he'd been because he had a little bit of rest. And it was fun to watch him pitch. You kind of think, 'Boy, he could sure help us.' At the same time, if he can't cover his position and you're putting him at risk of hurting himself, first of all, it's not fair. And it's hard to win a game.

"I think he improved enough in yesterday's game -- and there should be some improvement before he pitches again -- that everybody thinks he can pitch and win. I don't think he's going to win a track meet. I don't think he was before. But he can cover his position and he's a really good pitcher."

Wakefield, who turned 43 on Aug. 2, made his first All-Star team this year after going 11-3 with a 4.31 ERA. He last pitched July 8, when he allowed three runs in six innings and beat the Oakland A's.

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