The Red Sox finally admitted what everybody has known for several days, that Tim Wakefield is headed to the bullpen. Daisuke Matsuzaka will start in Baltimore Saturday.
Terry Francona tried to spin the move, saying the Red Sox weren’t turning Wakefield into a reliever, they were just sending him to the bullpen until he makes his next start.
I was waiting for George Costanza to come in the room and say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
The bottom line is that Wakefield was demoted to make room for Matsuzaka. It’s almost inevitable that he’ll start again, but how much use he’ll be as a reliever in the meantime remains to be seen.
Wakefield then met with reporters and was terse. Here’s how the Q&A went:
His thoughts about going to the bullpen: “I don’t have any.”
Is he concerned about not having pitched in relief since 2004? “No.”
Was today’s start difficult under the circumstances? “No, it was a start, just another start.”
What was his reaction to Francona and Theo Epstein saying all spring that he was a starter? “Today was a very good day. I threw a lot of strikes Unfortunately we came out on the short end of the stick.”
You get the idea.
Who’s right? That depends on how Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz pitch. But Wakefield’s 5.40 ERA didn’t help his cause. He pitched well against two bad teams — the Royals and Orioles — and was shelled by two good teams — the Twins and Rangers.
The story of the game, beyond Wakefield, was Francona’s decision to use Scott Atchison to start the 10th inning instead of Manny Delcarmen.
Opponents were hitting .083 against Delcarmen and the righthander had not pitched since Tuesday, the night his fastball hit 96 m.p.h. for the first time this season. The first three hitters due up for Baltimore — Miguel Tejada, Luke Scott, and Ty Wigginton — were 3 for 19 against him.
“We thought about both [Atchison and Delcarmen]. We had Scotty up,” Francona said. “We thought he would throw strikes and we didn’t anticipate the inning unfolding the way it did.”
Atchison didn’t get an out. By the time Delcarmen came in — and got two quick outs — the damage had been done. That the Sox then rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning only magnified what a bad decision that was.
It’s pretty grim when you allow 16 runs on 39 hits over three games to a team like the Orioles. They arrived in town hitting .225 with a .285 on-base percentage.
That the Sox are 8-11 should not be a concern. The Blue Jays, White Sox, and Mariners were leading the respective divisions of the AL one year ago and all watched the playoffs from home.
The concern is that the Red Sox are not pitching well and have a roster full of mismatched pieces. There are two DHs, a catcher who can’t throw, and outfielders who hit at the bottom of the order more often than not.
In Wakefield, David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek, Francona also has four older players on the downside of their careers who believe they should be playing every day and aren’t. Having two such players on the roster would be a lot to handle. He has four.
If a team is winning, nobody can complain. But if 8-11 turns into 16-22, disgruntled players will find a forum in the clubhouse and Francona will have fires to put out.