With the wind swirling at Fenway Park, and torrential rain in the forecast for this evening, one concern for the Red Sox — as they look to stave off elimination in their division series against the White Sox today — is what kind of movement Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball will have. Especially against a lineup that features Carl Everett (.438 lifetime against Wakefield) and Aaron Rowand, who has torched the knuckleballer to the tune of a .714 average and four home runs in 14 at bats.
“As far as Rowand goes, that’s very difficult for us,” manager Terry Francona said today in his pregame meeting with the media. “That kid Rowan has given us fits. He’s given Wakefield fits and he’s given our team fits.”
A little more than two hours before game time, wind was blowing directly out toward the Mass. Pike, though Francona said the flags above the left field wall aren’t always the best indicator of how gusts might affect Wakefield. If the wind is at his back, it can make the pitch tumble, Francona said.
If not, if might be long day for souvenirs in the Monster seats.
Wakefield will be starting today with an extra day’s rest, something he didn’t have in last weekend’s start against the Yankees, when he was forced to go on just three days off. Wakefield gave up seven runs in the Yankees’ AL East-clinching win. In that game, Francona said Wakefield never got the feel for his signature pitch, but that his legs felt great, a condition he expects to spread over to today with the fifth day of rest.
— Francona on Jason Varitek, and whether he might deserve a Gold Glove award: “I think the word awesome is not a stretch,” he said. “I like that word.”
— Expect Tony Graffanino to get a warm reception when he’s introduced here today, as Red Sox Nation seems to be truly forgiving about the second baseman’s blunder the other night, and has appreciated the way that he has made no excuses about it.
“I don’t think we expected anything different,” Francona said. “I think Tony understands the team concept, responsibility, standing up.”
— David Wells threw in the outfield grass about three hours before game time. If the series goes to a Game 5, Wells would likely get the start on three days rest.
— Curt Schilling, who was due to meet with the media following Francona, instead postponed his appearance until after the Red Sox were done with their pregame workouts. We’ll get some of his comments in a bit.