Red Sox exercise option on Wakefield

Sox exercise option on Wakefield

BOSTON -- If there is a constant when it comes to the Red Sox, it is Tim Wakefield's knuckleball, which will be back in full flutter for a 15th season in 2009.

The Red Sox officially exercised Wakefield's $4 million option on Friday, allowing the venerable right-hander to continue as the longest-tenured player on the team.

In fact, Wakefield will become the first pitcher in club history to pitch 15 consecutive seasons with the Red Sox.

"I am ecstatic to be coming back," said Wakefield. "I'm feeling good."

Wakefield came to Boston in 1995 after being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates and has been a model of professionalism and consistency ever since.

Even at the age of 42, Wakefield continues to be an effective member of the Red Sox's rotation. In 2008, Wakefield went 10-11 with a 4.13 ERA. The record is misleading when you consider that there were seven occasions when Wakefield left a game with the lead and didn't get the win.

His 18 quality starts -- second on the staff to Jon Lester -- were a more telling demonstration of the way he pitched.

Wakefield has one of the most interesting contracts in baseball. Each year for as many seasons as the sides want, the Red Sox can simply bring back Wakefield at a club option of $4 million.

This is the third season the Red Sox have picked up the option.

Even though Wakefield has suffered injuries during the second half in each of the last three seasons, he continues to be well worth Boston's investment.

"He won, what, 17 [games] the year before? I actually thought, 'Well maybe it's not fair,'" Red Sox manager Terry Francona said recently of Wakefield's 10 wins. "But for the majority of the year I actually thought he pitched almost better [in 2008]. I thought with Wake's year, it was deceiving.

"He's run into problems the last couple of years at the end of the year physically, which again you try to look at innings for all your starters and piece them together and he gave us a lot of innings. I think he gave us 186 innings. That's a pretty significant number of innings."

In Wakefield's 14 seasons with the Red Sox, he is 164-145 with a 4.33 ERA. Adding in his two seasons with the Pirates, Wakefield is 178-157 with a 4.32 ERA in his career.

Wakefield joins Josh Beckett, Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka in Boston's projected rotation for 2009. Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson could also factor into the rotation.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.