Hard to believe, but Tim Wakefield made his 500th career appearance with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.
That's quite an achievement, considering how tons of players seem to change teams on a yearly basis in the day of free agency.
Wakefield is now in his 14th season with the Beantowners, and has definitely seen his share of ups and downs, with the latter happening in his milestone appearance.
The knuckleballer was lifted after just five outs in Arlington during the Red Sox's 15-8 loss to the Texas Rangers, and Boston remained 2 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, Wakefield unravelled in the second, with none on and two outs. A slew of walks, singles, and a double later, the right-hander was back in the dugout, down 7-1.
Not the best start.
Still, Wakefield has been a solid contributor to the Red Sox, and we all know how the knuckleball just doesn't work out some days, so let's cut him some slack.
Indeed, there's been some memorable moments during Wakefield's long tenure with the BoSox.
The knuckleballer has been with Boston for so long that he's been teammates with Roger Clemens, Dennis Eckersley, Steve Avery, Ramon Martinez, Bret Saberhagen, and Mark Portugal--which would make a great rotation, but all of those mentioned here were washed up or on their final legs. (Okay, in Clemens' case, that's different, but he was mediocre in his final Boston seasons.)
Wakefield was one of Dan Duquette's pickups in 1995, an inexpensive one at that, and one that actually worked out then.
With the Red Sox on a west coast road trip in late May of '95, their pitching staff was depleted with injuries. Wakefield was brought onto the team, beat the Angels in Anaheim, and made his next start on just two days' rest.
The result? A 1-0 victory in Oakland, where Wakefield threw two-hit ball and pitched into the eighth, saving the bullpen.
Wakefield was 14-1 with six complete games to start his Red Sox career (not unlike what CC Sabathia is doing with the Brewers now). The Red Sox went on to win the AL East.
Of course, there were bad times as well. In one start against the Blue Jays in 1996, Wakefield was left in a blowout loss long enough so he was charged with 11 runs (but 10 being UNearned). In another outing the same year in Chicago, Wakefield was pounded for 16 hits in a complete game loss, another lopsided defeat.
Wakefield has had several roles on the Red Sox. He has started 363 times, but has also been used as a reliever and a closer. Jimy Williams used him as a stopper in 1999, and the knuckleballer picked up 15 saves, albeit with an ERA over 4.50 during that stretch.
But the biggest relief appearance came in the 2004 ALCS, when Wakefield chose to forgo his Game Four start by pitching in relief in a blowout third game loss, saving the tired bullpen.
Two nights later, Wakefield returned to throw three scoreless innings in extras--despite Jason Varitek being charged with three passed balls in the 13th inning--as Boston staved off elimination in Game Five. Boston went on to overcome its 3-0 series deficit to knock off the Yankees and end the "curse."
Wakefield currently has 162 lifetime wins for the Red Sox, third behind Clemens and Cy Young (tied with 192). Though it should be mentioned too, that the knuckleballer is No. 1 in losses (144) and by a wide margin. He's also in the top three in strikeouts (with no chance to catch Clemens), games, starts, and innings.
Tim Wakefield is not close to being the best pitchers in Red Sox history, but his place there is secure. His longevity and numbers, along with his contributions to the 2004 and 2007 championship seasons, speak for themselves.
Congratulations Wakefield, on getting to No. 500. Hope your next start will be much better.