|Mike Quade has a new level of respect for Tim Wakefield||05.23.11 at 1:16 pm ET|
Cubs manager Mike Quade was hardly surprised when 44-year-old Tim Wakefield baffled his hitters Sunday night in a 5-1 Red Sox win.
Quade was with the Pirates organization as a minor leaguer through 1983 and managed in their minor league system thought 1986, just two years before they drafted Wakefield as a first baseman. A year later, in 1989, Quade heard that they were converting Wakefield to a knuckleball pitcher.
Sunday night – 22 years later – Wakefield threw just 75 pitches, allowing four hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings in leading the Red Sox to a win Sunday night before a national TV audience.
“I was a Pittsburgh guy when I first signed and was over there and know a lot of people in that organization that saw him go from a guy going nowhere as an infielder/first baseman,” Quade said. “He’s had one helluva career. I wish we would have not allowed him to have such a good night.
“He’s been a wonderful for this guy for this organization for, heck, I’ve lost track for how many years. What a valuable guy to have in your pen, he can throw every day, he can start for you.”
Wakefield came in at 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA. He left 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA.
“I know he struggled going in but he threw a high percentage of strikes with his knuckleball,” Quade said. “If those guys do that, they’re usually tough. He threw one fastball to my catcher and it was a base hit. He’s been around the block. If his knuckleball is good, he’s real tough. I’ve heard lots of stories.”
Quade wasn’t the only one with a newfound level of respect.
“I don’t know, it’s like a cross between slow-pitch softball and I don’t know what,” marveled Cubs left fielder Jeff Baker, who actually managed a double before leaving with a strained groin. “I didn’t really figure him out. You think it’s in one spot and then it’s gone and it’s somewhere else. He was tough. He was really tough. We scratched out one run against him. We didn’t have too many good at-bats, too many hard hit balls. It’s one of those things where we have to have a better game plan because we have another knuckleballer this week.”
The Cubs face R.A. Dickey and the Mets on Thursday at Wrigley.
“I felt great,” said Wakefield, who was given an extra day of rest after taking the place of Daisuke Matsuzaka in the Red Sox rotation. “The extra day obviously helps. I felt pretty good and I was throwing a lot of strikes tonight.”
Wakefield was in cruise control for most of the night, thanks in large part to the high percentage of strikes he was throwing. Through four innings, he had thrown just 35 pitches, 27 for strikes. Through five innings, he had allowed only an Alfonso Soriano single to open the third.
“I take a lot of pride in that because you’re asked to do a job and when you do it well, that’s what you’re trying to do. Tonight was one of those nights where I take a huge gold nugget out of it and get prepared for the next one.”
His best inning came in the fourth when he needed just eight pitches to retire the side in order.
“It was definitely key,” Wakefield said of his pitch economy. “I didn’t know what my pitch count was. I was just trying to get outs quickly to try and get deep in the game. When I throwing strikes with that kind of movement, I’m getting them to swing early. I proved that in the third inning.”
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