He is the longest-tenured player on the Boston Red Sox roster. His knuckle-balls have fluttered in the Boston breeze for over a decade. He is only 17 wins shy of tying the franchise's all-time win record.
However, entering spring training, Tim Wakefield's place within the Red Sox pitching staff is still unknown.
Following the off-season acquisition of John Lackey, the Red Sox starting rotation is filled to the brim with pitchers. There is actually a surplus, as six pitchers will be competing for five slots. However, according to Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Wakefield's place will be in the starting rotation.
"He's a starter," Francona told reporters in Ft. Myers. "We need some time to answer those questions. I can't do that today. We're trying to put together a staff for the whole year. We'll figure all of that out.
"I think rather than trying to answer that, the best way to go about it is to get guys really healthy and productive, and then, if we have to make decisions, we'll gladly do that."
Wakefield underwent back surgery this off-season. However, he is ready to go in spring training. In fact, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reported that Wakefield was seen throwing from a bullpen mound today.
In late January, the 43-year old Wakefield stated his opinion rather clearly.
"I think I've earned the right to be a full-time starter and go from there," Wakefield told the Boston Herald on Jan. 27. "It seems every year, and I don't know why, my name gets brought up like this when I don't feel the need to prove myself every day.
"I don't know where the rumors are coming from, but I try not to pay attention. I know my role and I know what my approach is going to be when I get to spring training: be a starter and help us win a World Series."
In 2009, Wakefield went 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA and 72 strikeouts.
Will opposing batters watch knuckle balls dance to home plate from a starter, or a reliever?
That is the question facing Tim Wakefield and the Boston Red Sox organization which will have to be answered in the coming weeks.
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