Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed down to scenic Allentown, Pa., today. He'll pitch for Pawtucket against Lehigh Valley in what the Sox have said will be his final rehabilitation start.
Matsuzaka was put on the disabled list with a sore neck after a truncated spring training that included assorted strains and pains.
But he has pitched very well in the minors, throwing 11 scoreless innings in two starts so far.
Matsuzaka is not exactly Darnell McDonald when it comes to popularity among the fan base. But the Red Sox have too much invested in him not to let him pitch. Sometime soon, he'll be back in the rotation.
Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey aren't going anywhere and a six-man rotation makes little sense. Somebody has to go.
So here's the question: Do you want Clay Buchholz or Tim Wakefield? Let's look at some of the factors:
Buchholz is 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA but hasn't pitched that well. He has given up 10 hits in 10 innings in his two starts and walked six with eight strikeouts. The 25-year-old has pitched tentatively, particularly with men on base. He looks almost afraid to throw a strike at times then the next inning looks unhittable.
Wakefield is 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA after three starts. The last two have been ugly and overall he has allowed 23 hits and seven walks over 18.1 innings.
Buchholz could actually be helpful in a bullpen that needs help. He has the ability to strike people out and could give them 2-3 innings at a time.
Wakefield has not pitched in relief to any degree since 2002. At his age and with a surgically repaired back, he is better off with a well-defined warm-up routine. It would be almost impossible to use him in close games given how easily teams can run on him and how prone the knuckleball is to wild pitches and passed balls. But he could he helpful in long relief.
Buchholz is still young and could be an important player for the next 6-8 years. He's close to realizing his potential as a starter and putting him in the bullpen would only serve to retard his progress.
Wakefield is signed through 2011 but is close to retirement and until Matsuzaka got hurt, did not have a spot in the rotation. But he has proven to be reliable in the past and if you really need somebody to pitch in a big game, do you trust Buchholz?
It's a fairly tough call, if only because the team has so much respect for Wakefield. There's little question the Red Sox already know what they want to do and are waiting for the right time to spring it on everybody.
Based on what they decided in the winter, Buchholz is probably staying in the rotation.