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Tim Wakefield claims one record, eyes another

09.08.10 at 11:51 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield has already claimed any number of Red Sox milestones, and on Wednesday, he added another to his collection. The knuckleballer, making his first start since Aug. 25, and just his second since the beginning of August, claimed his first victory since July 2.

The trip to the win column, in turn, established Wakefield — at 44 years, 37 days — as the oldest Red Sox pitcher in history to win a game, as he surpassed a standard set by Dennis Eckersley in 1998, when he was 43 years, 349 days.

“It means a lot, considering I’ve been here for 16 years,” said Wakefield. “Any time you can have some kind of milestone, it’s very important. I’m very proud to do it in a Red Sox uniform.”

The performance was not his most artful. Wakefield (4-10) logged five innings and allowed five runs (four earned), partly the result of poor defense behind him. Even so, given the rarity of both starts and wins for Wakefield this year, he took no small pleasure in the outcome.

“It’s been a while,” noted Wakefield.

The victory offered some measure of relief in a season that has offered little. The veteran has made no secret of his disappointment in his role, in which he has spent lengthy stretches pitching in mop-up duty, often in losses. In fact, until Wednesday, each of Wakefield’s last 11 appearances had come in a Red Sox loss.

“It’s been difficult,” said Wakefield. “I try to take it a day at a time and do the best I can when I get called upon.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox 11, Rays 5

09.08.10 at 10:27 pm ET
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Red Sox skipper Terry Francona was right.

Earlier in the day, he said his team would still have fight in them, even after the bout is long over.

Whether it’s Marco Scutaro belting a pair of home runs to left with a bum right shoulder, Josh Reddick collecting three hits in his career for the first time or Lars Anderson breaking through with his first two big league hits, the Red Sox showed that Tuesday night’s 14-5 embarrassment at the hands of the Rays was wiped from their memory banks.

That skill will come in very, very handy as they play the Yankees six times and the White Sox four times in the final three weeks. The Red Sox, if nothing else, showed Wednesday they will play hard to the end of the schedule.

The Red Sox were rewarded Wednesday night with an 11-5 win over the Rays, completing their homestand with a 2-4 mark as they have Thursday off before embarking on a six-game road trip through Oakland and Seattle.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:

– Marco Scutaro sure knows how to handle pain. Fresh from his first start at second base since 2008, Scutaro returned to shortstop on Wednesday and had his second career two-homer game. He also collected a double and a single in posting his seventh career four-hit game. His other came on Aug. 9, 2009 vs. Baltimore.

– The Rays had a pitching meltdown starting with Matt Garza. The Red Sox took advantage of the right-hander who had one of his worst nights of a good season. Coming in, he was 14-7 with a 3.46 ERA. But on this night, his fastball was flat and the Red Sox capitalized by going deep four times.

Tim Wakefield hits his payday. By getting one out deep into the fourth inning, Wakefield guaranteed his contract for 2011 at $2 million, up from the base of $1.5 million when he agreed to a two-year extension last November. On top of that, Wakefield earned his first win since before Independence Day by lasting five innings, allowing six hits and five runs – four earned. It was his first win since July 2 and a 3-2 win over Baltimore at Fenway.

– Rookie first baseman Lars Anderson looked a lot more comfortable. Not only did he collect his first two big league hits but he drove in his first run in a three-run seventh and made a diving grab of a Brad Hawpe grounder down the right field line. He scooped and threw onto Scott Atchison covering.

– The long ball brigade was out in force. Not only did Scutaro go deep twice, David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez all went yard as the Red Sox turned the tables on the Rays pitching staff from Tuesday night.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:

– J.D. Drew continues to slide. Drew went 1-for-4 and struck out and now has a season batting average of .254. He finished the homestand 3-for-17 and has homered once this month, on Sept. 1 against Baltimore’s Jake Arieta.

– Rays manager Joe Maddon was managing the late innings as if the game were a one-run playoff contest. This wasn’t really that bad for the Red Sox but terrible for the loyal fans who chose to stay behind and get their nine innings-worth of baseball. Despite the Red Sox scoring three in the fifth, one in the sixth and three more in the seventh to make it an 11-5 contest, Maddon saw fit to use six pitchers in the game, with four of the changes coming in the middle of an inning.

Read More: josh reddick, lars anderson, marco scutaro, Tim Wakefield

Terry Francona on Dale & Holley: Josh Beckett’s consistency an issue

09.08.10 at 4:56 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined Dale & Holley on Wednesday for his weekly conversation and elaborated on the decision to change the pitching matchup for the series finale against the Rays. Clay Buchholz was scheduled to start if the Red Sox won Tuesday night, instead he’ll throw Friday in Oakland. Tim Wakefield will take the mound against Tampa Bay, opposite 14-game-winner Matt Garza.

“With the outcome of the first two games we kind of reserved the right to make a change,” Francona said. “We felt like if we won, it would have put us in the best position to beat them. And once we got beat last night, we, I don’t want to say rethunk it, that’s not true, we had thought about it beforehand, but we went to kind of a plan B.”

Francona was asked more about the underperformance of some of the Red Sox other starting pitchers, the amount of errors they have accrued, and whether or not fans will be seeing more of the younger players.

Following is the transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

From your experience and what you know of him, what could you reasonably expect from Clay Buchholz on three days’ rest?

Well, I think he’d have been just fine. We wouldn’t have thought about doing that if we were concerned. In the past, when we’ve had concerns about it, we haven’t done it. It kind of, I guess, goes back to Cleveland in ’07. We had the chance to do it with [Josh] Beckett and we pitched Wake instead and it just felt like Beckett had been at the point, getting us to middle of October, I didn’t think that was fair to him. I had done it, but I didn’t think he had a chance to be real productive.

Last year going in to the playoffs we were setting it up so we could do it with [Jon] Lester because we felt like he was strong enough and at a point where he could do it. Well, this week we had actually not plausible concerns, I mean we concern ourselves about everything, but this was not a tough one. You know Clay’s workload, he has managed it real well. It’s not like he’s running out of gas, he’s not losing arm strength, things like that, so this would have been an easy one.

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Read More: Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, Terry Francona,

Jerry Remy on D&C: Blame it on the bullpen

09.08.10 at 10:57 am ET
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Jerry Remy

Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning to talk about what went wrong with the 2010 Red Sox and what their plan might be for the future.

“It’s been surprising,” Remy said of the Sox pitchers. “I expected they would be one of the top three teams in the league pitching-wise and they’re around seventh or eighth. A lot of that is out of the bullpen. The bullpen has been very disappointing. Guys like [Ramon] Ramirez and [Hideki] Okajima. They just didn’t do their job this year. When you look back at this whole thing in another month, you’re going to have to take injuries into consideration. They were never able to put a healthy team on the field all season long. With that said, would this team have been good enough to compete with [New York and Tampa], even healthy? I think they would have been.”

Even accounting for the injuries, Remy feels that the set-up relievers have been the biggest problem. “Okajima for a couple of years has been a major part of that bullpen,” Remy said. “The way it was set up this year, you had [Okajima] taking care of the seventh, [Daniel] Bard in the eighth and [Jonathan Papelbon] the ninth and [Okajima] just couldn’t get the job done. That’s something there going to have to address big-time in the offseason. That’s the biggest disappointment for me.”

On the center field situation, Remy expects Jacoby Ellsbury to reclaim his job from Mike Cameron. “It made some sense this year,” Remy said. “I think when they’re making their plans for 2011, I don’t think Mike Cameron will be part of their plans. If he comes back as a backup outfielder that might be a different story. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Ellsbury back in center field.”

On Adrian Beltre: “With the kind of year he had, I think he’s going to be looking for big-time money. He came here for a year to prove that he can still play and he did that. He’s going to be out on the market looking for a contract that’s going to take care of the rest of his career and I don’t know whether the Red Sox will be willing to do that.”

On David Ortiz, who has a team option for 2011 at $12.5 million left on his contract: “I have no idea what they’re going to do with David. From what he’s done this year I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t [try to work out an extension].”

On J.D. Drew: “J.D. is J.D. He’s had a bad couple of months. He’s a unique guy. He reminds me a lot of Freddy Lynn when Freddy played here. Things don’t seem to bother him like they bother other people. Have they got their money’s worth? Probably not. That’s a big, huge contract. When you have a contract like that I think you expect 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, and that just hasn’t happened.”

Remy was asked if Papelbon would be his closer next year. “He would be for me,” Remy said. “Besides the explosion the other day, I think this last month and a half is the best I’ve seen him pitch in a long time. He’s finally back to the point where he’s using all his pitches as a closer. To me he is. I see no reason to change. When they have their complete team together, that eighth and ninth inning is in pretty good shape with both those guys.”

Read More: Adrian Beltre, bullpen, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew

Red Sox’ two-year offer surprised Martinez

09.08.10 at 1:16 am ET
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Victor Martinez is intent on not getting caught up in the drama that will come with any impending contract negotiations. (AP)

Speaking prior to the Red Sox’ 14-5 loss to the Rays Tuesday night at Fenway Park, Victor Martinez addressed his impending contract negotiations, which unexpectedly (for Martinez) kicked off with the Sox offering a two-year deal.

“That’s a business part of the game,” he told WEEI.com regarding the offer. “They’re trying to do one thing, and we’ll see what happens. I don’t really have to do it. They came with something, and that might just be where the negotiations start. But I don’t see myself signing a two-year deal. I’m young enough (31). I work hard and I give it all. I just want to be treated fair.”

Martinez explained that he is feeling no stress in regard to the uncertainty that looms as he draws closer to becoming a free agent for the first time in his career, partially because he never expected the process to begin as soon as it has.

“It wasn’t hard because it wasn’t something I was expecting,” Martinez said. “I wan’t expecting a two-year deal. I wasn’t expecting them to come to me during the season, anyways.”

Martinez said he is approaching the offseason in the same manner he has throughout his career, hoping to let his body of work to this point speak for itself.

“I don’t think I have to worry about it. Everything is out there,” he explained. “I don’t have to hide anything. Everything is on the table. I’m just oing to go home and prepare myself like I do every year, whether it’s for here or somewhere else. Just keep playing until I win a championship.”

Martinez noted that he has never won a championship at any level of baseball, and hopes to play another five or six years. He also said that while he will continue to view himself as a catcher, he will be basing his offseason decision more on an opportunity to win a title rather than any commitment to catching full-time.

“I just want to be part of a winning team,” said Martinez, who is hitting .288 with 14 homers. With two more hits against Tampa Bay left-hander David Price, the catcher also is now hitting .408 with a 1.200 OPS vs. southpaws. “I want to win a championship. Whatever it takes it to do it. I’ll do anything to make the team better, put the best lineup on the field.”

For more Red Sox coverage see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Matsuzaka: ‘I can only really apologize’

09.07.10 at 11:55 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka

Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka took full responsibility for his team’s 14-5 drubbing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, a defeat that left the Sox virtually conceding the postseason to the Yankees and Rays. After matching a career-high by permitting eight runs in 4 2/3 innings — a performance that snapped a career-high run of 16 straight starts in which he’d allowed four earned runs or fewer, the right-hander made no excuses.

“I knew very well that this was a critical game as far as our chances of advancing to the playoffs. so to allow what happened to happen so early in the game, I can really only apologize to my teammates and my fans,” said Matsuzaka (9-5). “On a day like today, I didn’t have any life or bite or command on my pitches. I’m sure [catcher Victor Martinez] felt there wasn’t anything he could try and do either.”

Matsuzaka allowed a pair of runs in the third before unraveling at a time when the game was tied, 2-2. He loaded the bases on a pair of walks, then turned an attempted sacrifice bunt into a game-changing play when his throw was too late to catch the runner at third.

It was Martinez who called for Matsuzaka to throw to third. But when Matt Joyce beat the throw, the Rays were primed for a big inning.

“You take a chance. You can’t play this game afraid to make a mistake,” Martinez said. “You can’t play this game being afraid to fail. I called it for third, and unfortunately, we didn’t get the out.”

At that point, Matsuzaka issued a bases-loaded walk and then a pair of hits to plate four runs, marking the sixth time this year that he has permitted four or more runs in a single inning.

“Lack of command caught up with him, and kind of caught up in a hurry. The third inning, we got walk, walk bunt and we’ve got bases loaded, nobody out,” said manager Terry Francona. “You know, just, there was a lot of hits and some walks mixed in and it’s not a good combination.”

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, victor martinez,

Jason Varitek returns, and eyes playing beyond 2010

09.07.10 at 11:28 pm ET
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Jason Varitek

It was an inglorious time at which to return to the field. The Red Sox were trailing by 12 runs, and the team had made the decision to pull the plug in the sixth inning.

But even with his team trailing, 14-2, the significance was not lost on Jason Varitek. For the first time since June 30, he was on the field in a major league game, behind the Fenway Park plate that has been his crouching station for so many years. The moment, Varitek said, was “tremendously” exciting, a reward for months of hard work to come back.

“I’ve had a long time, a lot of work, and a lot of different people spent time with me from 1 o’clock in the afternoon till game time,” said Varitek. “I caught the ball good. I took some good swings. It was nice to be out there and to actually get into a game.”

Yet this was not the first step of a farewell tour for the Red Sox captain. Varitek, who went 0-for-2, said after the game that he envisions playing at least one more year, and perhaps several. The 2010 season — aside from the freak foul ball that broke his left foot — has left him feeling healthier and stronger than he has in years. That being the case, he looks forward to the opportunity to continue his career.

“I definitely want to play. There’s no question,” Varitek said. “Things have, health-wise, turned the corner outside of a freak broken bone that allows me to do some things at a high, high level. I definitely want to play.”

Varitek said that, in achieving health, he has realized how challenging the grind of recent seasons was, as he tried to push through injury. But now, perhaps because he was operating in a part-time role behind Victor Martinez this year, he feels that his bat has regained quickness, and that his actions behind the plate are better than they have been in some time.

“I’m able to make some adjustments offensively. I’m probably able to throw the ball better than I have ever in my entire life,” Varitek said. “And then the things you take pride in: Being able to block the ball, move, do things. I think that at some levels I’m just doing things better than I ever have.”

That being the case, Varitek is convinced that the 2010 season will not be his last. While he would like to play beyond 2011 as well, he is withholding judgment about just how much longer he wants to continue his career, at a time when he said that he has “no idea” how much the Sox will want him to play down the stretch.

“I want to listen to my body. At this point, I definitely want to play another year. I’d like to play a few more years. We’ll just have to see,” Varitek said. “If things go the other way and I wasn’t healthy, I’d have to evaluate. If my swings and stuff went the other direction, I’d have to evaluate. But I’ve made some drastic improvements, and I’m almost rejuvenated.”

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