Tim Wakefield was still hobbling around the clubhouse today, the toll from a nerve injury and a trying second half of the season. After Wakefield allowed five runs on seven hits and three home runs during 76 painful pitches last night, the Sox have yet to make official his playoff status. But it seems as though he is finished for the year.
“There’s so much uncertainty there,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s not going to pitch this weekend. We have decisions to make. I really don’t know. That’s one of the things we’ll talk about. It’s difficult for us. We all acknowledge who he is, what he’s done for the organization for a long time. He’s also out there on one leg. So it makes it difficult.”
Wakefield’s health and performance have regressed in the second half of the season. His outings since the break:
Aug. 28: seven innings, one run, six hits, one walk, three strikeouts
Sept. 5: six innings, four runs, six hits, three walks, four strikeouts
Sept. 21: five innings, four earned runs, five hits, seven walks, two strikeouts
Sept. 30: three innings, five runs, seven hits, two walks, two strikeouts
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J.D. Drew is out of the lineup for the second straight game with a sore shoulder. It’s nothing serious, but to be safe Francona is going to sit him tomorrow night as well. Joey Gathright will start in his place, giving the Red Sox a chance to observe him in rightfield. Francona seemed to suggest Gathright is a serious candidate to be a postseason reserve, even comparing himt to Dave Roberts.
“He hasn’t played very much,” Francona said. “He’s got great speed – game-impacting speed. You’re always looking for that – and maybe here more than anywhere – that Dave Roberts guy. That’s probably a long shot to think that that would happen. But, you know, he’s a guy that can impact the game with his speed. So it’s something that we need certainly think about moving forward. We’re just trying to answer a lot of questions about health, our team. This is just one of them.”
Francona’s resting of Drew underscores his general strategy at this moment of the season. The outcomes of the games are irrelevant, and the priority is on resting players.
“We have to get ready to play,” Francona said. “It’s not really that difficult. You know the best thing you can do is not turn on the radio. I’m serious. We have to get ready to play. We could play everybody tonight and tomorrow and really go all out to win this series and get a lot of ‘momentum.’ And have J.D. feel like [expletive]. Think about it for a second. It’s easy. Last night was miserable. At the same time I knew what was going on. Dusty Brown is not going to pitch for us in the playoffs. You suck it up, take your beating, and move on.”
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Jon Lester will not be stretched out tonight, but the Red Sox are certain he has no ill effects from the line drive he took off the quadriceps, other than a bruise. It he did, he would not be pitching.
“I think we’ll watch how the game goes,” Francona said. “We didn’t even talk to him about it, because I don’t think he likes that. The last thing he needs to do is go into this game like it’s an exhibition game, because that doesn’t really help him. We’ll let him go hard and tell him when he’s done. There are certainly some thoughts – he’s not going to throw 130 pitches. But there is also a thought, because of the uncertainty of when we play, we don’t want to cut him too short, either.”