While Tim Wakefield was far from his sharpest in allowing his first runs of the spring, the knuckleballer thought a lot of good came out of his third outing.
"Physically, I felt great. I was able to get up and down four times without a problem," Wakefield said following the Red Sox's 8-4 loss to the Orioles on Monday afternoon. "Obviously, the results weren't what I wanted them to be, but it's Spring Training. I was able to work out of the stretch a bunch, which I needed to do. I made some good quality pitches when I needed to."
All those hits meant a lot of baserunners. That enabled Wakefield to work on a slide step to home as he tries to quicken his times to the plate. It's something he, and most pitchers, are always looking to improve.
"I've been working on it, just trying to perfect it a little, be a little quicker to the plate," Wakefield said. "It's always something I try to improve on. As a pitcher, you want to try and control the running game as much as possible. I can try and do that and solidify it before the season starts."
Sometimes working on one area of the game can cause problems in another. With Wakefield focusing on the slide step, his mechanics -- particularly when throwing the knuckleball -- got out of whack. He had more success with it vs. the Marlins last Tuesday, when he went three scoreless innings. But the mechanics of getting his pitch to do what it's supposed to are fairly delicate.
"There's a fine line. Because I was trying to use a slide-step a little bit more and maybe be a little more creative and faster, I think it messed up my timing," Wakefield said. "I felt really good at the start of the game, then out of the stretch, I was trying to be too quick, changing speeds in my time to home, trying to keep the runner at first. Today, a couple slide steps got away from me, kept the ball up, especially to Luke Scott. Sometimes it's hard to slow it back down."
Scott hit a three-run homer off of Wakefield as part of the Orioles' four-run third. He looked much sharper in the fourth, getting a couple of outs before being lifted by manager Terry Francona. Finishing off the outing was another encouraging sign for the veteran.
"I wasn't able to get that finish on my pitch," Wakefield said. "It's something you have to deal with and make adjustments during the game, and I wasn't able to do that today. The last inning was really good. I was able to throw some curveballs and got some better action on my pitch. I'll take that positive away from it.
"It's nice to be able to be down here and know that results really don't matter even though I do care about them. At this point, it's more about getting you work done."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.