Bobby Valentine hopes Wakefield has a bit more left.
In a surprise move after tonight's 10-3 loss in New York, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine announced that pitcher Tim Wakefield would be starting Saturday afternoon's game against the Yankees in place of beleaguered lefty Jon Lester.
"Wake has been working out with Phil Neikro for the past several weeks, and the ball is really dancing," said Valentine of the right-handed knuckleballer, who retired during spring training but was contacted by Boston management last month and told to prepare himself for possible activation. "We think Tim may be able to give us just the boost we need."
Lester, who is 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA this season, was told of the decision earlier in the week and sworn to secrecy. Lester allowed a career-worst 11 earned runs in four-plus innings during his last start Sunday against Toronto, and has been working with a hypnotist and former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek this week in private indoor sessions at Newton North High School. Lester could not be reached for comment.
The Red Sox, 49-51 and in last place in the American League East, are in danger of falling out of wild card-contention heading into August. After Friday's defeat Boston is in eighth place in the wild card race -- five full games behind current leaders Los Angeles and Oakland pending late West Coast games. It is unclear when Lester will start again, but Valentine suggested it depended on Wakefield's perforance Saturday.
Jon Lester is working through his issues.
Wakefield, third in Red Sox history behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens with 186 victories, turns 46 next Thursday and will be one of the oldest men ever to pitch in the majors at Yankee Stadium. He is used to performing under pressure in this venue, having done so in the epic ALCS matchups between the Yankees and Red Sox in 2003-04. "I think I remember the place pretty well," he quipped when reached by reporters in Boston, where he too has been pitching in secrecy at Northeastern University.
The Yankees certainly remember him. Informed of Wakefield's pending start, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announced that he was putting a call in to Aaron Boone to see if the former infielder could come to New York and throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's game. While with the Yankees in 2003, Boone hit an 11th-inning, Game 7 home run off Wakefield to clinch the American League championship.
To make room on the roster for Wakefield, Boston has placed pitcher Mark Melancon on the disabled list.