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Tim Wakefield announces his retirement

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 17, 2012 11:43 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tim Wakefield will announce his retirement at 5 p.m. today at JetBlue Park.

Wakefield, 45, was 200-180 with a 4.41 ERA in 627 appearances in his 19-year career. The Florida native spent the final 17 seasons with the Red Sox, going 186-168 with a 4.43 ERA over 590 games. He is third in team history for victories, trailing only Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who each had 192.

Wakefield's 17 seasons with the Sox were the most for an active player. In team history, only Carl Yastrzemski (23), Ted Williams (19) and Dwight Evans (19) played more years with the team.

Wakefield leaves the Red Sox having pitched the most innings (3,006) and made the most starts (430) in team history. He was second in games pitched (590) and strikeouts (2,046).

He also allowed the most home runs (401), walks (1,095), hits (2,931), wild pitches (125), and hit batters (176) in team history and had the most losses.

Wakefield, the oldest player in baseball last season, was 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 33 games 23 of them starts. He pitched 154.2 innings.

The knuckleballer joined Walter Johnson as the only two pitchers in American League history with at least four wins and 125 or more innings in 17 consecutive seasons.

Wakefield was an All-Star for the first time in 2009 and was 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA in 21 starts that season. But he was 11-19 with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP in the two years that followed. He was 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA in his final 11 games last season.

Wakefield won his 199th game on July 24. His bid for 200 victories became painful as he failed to record a victory in nine consecutive starts. The 200th victory finally came on Sept 13 at Fenway Park against the Blue Jays.

Wakefield received a standing ovation from the crowd.

But it was clear that his effectiveness as a pitcher was coming to an end. Wakefield 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.

There was speculation that Wakefield would retire after the season, having attained one of the milestones he coveted. But during the final week of the season, he told Fox Sports that the fans "deserved" to see him break the team record.

The Red Sox did not feel that way. New general manager Ben Cherington steadfastly said throughout the winter that he respected Wakefield, but had to be honest with him about his chances of making the team. As such, the Red Sox were not willing to offer him a major league contract.

In November, agent Barry Meister said if the Sox don't bring Wakefield 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."

Wakefield reiterated that in December, saying he "very much wanted to play for the Red Sox" and was preparing himself physically for the coming season.

But the Red Sox did not budge. In the end, it appears, Wakefield preferred retirement to the idea of trying to catch on with another team.

With Wakefield retiring, the question now will be what transpires with catcher Jason Varitek, who is in much the same situation. Varitek, 39, has said he wants to return to the team but the Sox have not offered him a major-league contract

The team captain, Varitek hit .221 with a .300 on-base percentage last season.

There will be more coverage of Wakefield's retirement following his press conference.

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