Wakefield gets start; Beckett tweaks back

Wakefield gets start; Beckett tweaks back

BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield began the season in the starting rotation. The knuckleballer hasn't started since facing the Orioles on April 25, and on May 1, he made his first relief appearance since June 9, 2004, throwing 2 1/3 innings in the Red Sox' 12-9 loss in Baltimore.

Between relief appearances, he had made 162 starts. On Wednesday, Wakefield will return to the rotation, albeit temporarily, to face the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, pushing Josh Beckett's next start to Friday in Detroit.

Wakefield was moved to the bullpen to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who returned from the disabled list, where he began the season with back and neck ailments.

After Monday's 7-6 win over the Blue Jays, Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced Beckett had tweaked his back swinging in preparation of upcoming Interleague Play. Francona had already announced his plans to change the rotation. Beckett's back issue was coincidental to that, he said.

"We'll get him checked out in the morning," Francona said. "He had a stiff back the other day a little bit.

"He was kind of starting to swing the bat, he felt it and it grabbed him a little bit. Nothing that guys don't have, but when he was swinging tonight, it spasmed up a little bit."

Francona was unsure how this might affect his plans for the rotation.

"We really don't know," he said. "We've been trying to progress our pitchers slow, some flips, hits in the cage, and we were trying to do it right before the game."

Beckett, who had a difficult outing in his previous start on Friday against the Yankees -- giving up nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings -- could benefit from the extra rest. In 34 starts throughout his career with six or more days' rest, Beckett is 17-11 (a .607 winning percentage) with a 3.09 ERA. On regular five days rest, he is 35-24 in 80 starts (a .593 winning percentage) with a 3.82 ERA.

In seven starts this season, Beckett is 1-1 with a 7.46 ERA. As a starter this year, Wakefield is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. In three relief appearances, spanning 6 1/3 innings, he has given up six earned runs on seven hits, with no walks and two strikeouts, for an ERA of 8.53.

One of the issues pitching coach John Farrell plans to work on with Beckett on the extra side day is working out of the stretch.

"There's multiple reasons for the adjustment in the rotation," Farrell said. "An additional side with Josh to force -- particularly out of the stretch -- him getting back to a proper balance point and not getting spread out to where he loses his downhill plane on his fastball. When he gets into a proper position, his curveball is less readable by an opposing hitter. Part of this at times is a constant use of a slidestep, which can help, or that can cause some of the havoc that we're trying to correct here.

"[Tuesday] would be his normal day. He threw an abbreviated side [session] yesterday, so tomorrow ... would be a full normal side [session] with two days off prior to his start."

In addition to giving Becket -- who Francona said he doesn't think "physically feels really good" -- an extra day of rest, getting a start for Wakefield would also keep him stretched out in the event he is called up on for an emergency start. Wakefield pitched three innings Friday and one inning Sunday against the Yankees.

"That gives Beckett a chance to have a second side [session]," Francona said. "Although it probably won't be lengthy but kind of a touch and feel, which is really good, I think, for him. It also helps us keep Wake stretched out like we wanted to do.

"He pitched the three innings the other night. We gave him the choice last night whether he thought the inning would be good for him or not. He wanted the inning. Then he comes back Wednesday. So, again, we don't know what the future holds. But we won't have allowed to get too far where he hasn't pitched. I think it works as well as it can. We're trying to make this work. And I think this is a good thing."

While it is an unusual situation, it is not unique.

"Last year, we did it differently," Francona said. "We had different guys coming off the DL, things like that. If I was the general manager, I wouldn't want to go into the year with just five pitchers. We've seen what happens, or what can happen. So we have our roster. Let's make it work the best we can. I guess that's how we view it. So if we have to be outside the box a little bit, I would rather do that than just say, 'Well, we got six or five, we're in a bad spot.' No, we're really not. We have good pitching.

"Let's make it work the best we can."