By saying almost nothing of consequence in his post-game press conference following a 7-6 loss by the Red Sox to the Orioles on Sunday, Tim Wakefield said everything about where he stands on being removed from the starting rotation.
Here's a little taste of his Q&A session with the media folk:
Thoughts on going to the bullpen?
"I don't have any."
The organization made it clear all spring that you would be a starter. Now you are a reliever. How do you react to that?
"Today was a very good day. I threw a lot of strikes. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of the stick."
Get the idea? Timmy is going to bring his glove and sit in the bullpen, but he's not going to be thrilled about it.
Now you and I can look at the starting rotation conundrum free of any emotion. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey aren't going anywhere. Clay Buchholz has the best ERA on the staff (2.70) and, at 25 years old, might be in the beginning stage of that breakout season that has been expected for several years. And Daisuke Matsuzaka is, remember, an investment somewhere north of $100 million. The Red Sox didn't bid $51.1 million to have Dice-K develop into a nice seventh-inning Roogy. And it was just two years ago that he was third in the league in ERA and fourth in Cy Young voting.
The reality is that Tim Wakefield is, today, the sixth-best option to start a game for the Boston Red Sox. He may not like that, or ever really understand it, and that's OK. But a 43-year-old with zero wins since last July and an ERA over five doesn't get script approval. Sorry, Knucksie.
Give Wakefield points for finishing this particular run in the rotation in fine fashion, however. While it's true that the Orioles are on a collision course with 52-110 thanks in large part to an offense that ranks last in the American League in OBP and runs scored, that doesn't render Wakefield's solid numbers on Sunday as irrelevant.
He threw 108 pitches in his 6.2 innings, allowing just six hits. He struck out five Orioles while walking only a single batter. And when he left with two outs in the seventh inning and a 4-1 lead, Wakefield walked to the dugout to a huge standing ovation. A nice moment that lingered for only a few minutes, as Hideki Okajima gave up an RBI double to Nick Markakis (Wakefield left with a runner -- Nolan Reimold -- on second base) and a two-run homer to Miguel Tejada that tied the score at 4-4 and wiped out any shot of Wakefield picking up win No. 176 with the Red Sox.
"It's obviously disappointing, but it happens throughout the course of a year or the course of a career," Wakefield said of Okajima blowing the lead. "You just have to bounce back and try to get them next time."
If Wakefield had been locked into the rotation this start would have been viewed as a potential jump start for his season, maybe the start of one of those streaks that has in many ways defined the knuckleballer's career.
But now it's time for Wakefield to find stage left and move into the bullpen. Though Terry Francona did his best to massage the situation after the game -- "This is not turning him into a reliever, this is us putting him into the bullpen until he starts again" -- the truth could not be more clear.
Tim Wakefield is the odd man out.
Here are four more things we learned on Sunday:
THE BULLPEN IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS:
It will be interesting to see what role Wakefield plays in the 'pen. Those who were angling for Buchholz to move out of the rotation felt that the power arm might be a better option in the late innings. And it's hard to argue with a Buchholz-Bard-Papelbon trio over the last three innings of a game. But while acknowledging all the difficulties of bringing a knuckleball pitcher out the bullpen, is there any chance that Tim Wakefield can be worse than Okajima has been in 2010?
The lefty now has an ERA of 4.70 and a WHIP of 1.83. Should those totals stay the same, it would be the third straight season that each has gone up. As loyal as Francona has been to the veterans that have helped him win championships, you have to wonder how the long the leash is with Okajima when it comes to appearing in key spots in games. Could it be Wakefield that gets a shot at the seventh-inning real estate? Could be Alan Embree, who has offered five straight scoreless outings for Pawtucket (while reportedly hitting 95 MPH on the gun.)
And as much as we all might want the Scott Atchison story to have a happy ending, don't be stunned if he's the one sent down when Dice-K is activated. Atchison saw his ERA rise to 6.23 after Sunday, giving up three runs (and taking the loss) in the 10th inning without recording an out.
BUT DANIEL BARD CONTINUES TO WORK TOWARD DOMINANCE:
Sandwiched between Okajima and Atchison on Sunday was Bard, who needed 15 pitches to strike out Reimold, Adam Jones and Markakis. He hit 100 MPH on the radar but also used a nasty slider at times to keep the hitters way off-balance. There was nothing even close to suggesting that any of the three Orioles' batters in the inning had a shot of putting the ball in play, much less producing a rally. A return to dominance for Bard following a shaky (two runs in two-thirds of an inning) outing on Friday night.
KEVIN YOUKILIS HAD HIMSELF A WEEK (WHATEVER THAT MEANS):
Safe to suggest that Youkilis was in a bit of a funk a week go? Following an 0-for-4 performance vs. the Rays on Patriots Day, Youkilis had just three hits in his previous 28 at-bats, watching his batting average plummet from .389 to .217. Youkilis' struggles had been given almost zero attention from both fans and media, not unusual when you consider that 1) that was right in the middle of the (still ongoing) David Ortiz Saga and 2) everyone knows that Youkilis is a 'leave him alone and his numbers will be fine at the end of the year' guy and it was just a matter of time before he started hitting again.
Well, now we are about a week removed from the sweep by the Rays and guess what? Youkilis had four multi-hit games over the last six games (including three hits Sunday) to move his average up 57 points. And I know it will be hard to sleep the next couple of nights with this exciting thought kicking around, but I think it's possible that Youkilis could win AL Player of the Week for his work.
THE OLD GUARD DESERVED A BETTER FATE SUNDAY:
Not just Wakefield, either. How about David Ortiz and Mike Lowell? Francona decided to stick with Ortiz against lefty Mark Hendrickson in the bottom of the sixth inning, with no outs and Victor Martinez at second and Youkilis at first. No matter that Ortiz had had managed just a single hit in 11 at-bats vs. left-handed pitching in 2010 and a had a 2009 season that included a .212/.298/.418 against southpaws. The manager's confidence was justified as Ortiz laced a single to right field, giving the Sox a 2-1 lead. The allowed the man that probably would have pinch-hit for Ortiz, Mike Lowell, to bat for Jonathan Van Every later in the sixth. The veteran third baseman also came through, belting a double to score Ortiz and give the Sox a seemingly comfortable 4-1 advantage. Could be the makings of quite a platoon.