Sunday, May 22, 2011
Ageless Wakefield gets another turn
By Jeremy Lundblad
There’s no escaping age.
As the oldest active player in the majors, Tim Wakefield, 44, needs no reminders. Yet it will be made especially clear on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.
Among the first batters he will face is Starlin Castro, the youngest player currently in the majors. Castro, who turned 21 in March, became the first major-leaguer born in the 1990s. Wakefield was drafted two years before Castro was born.
Opposing Wakefield on the mound is James Russell. He’s the son of former Red Sox closer Jeff Russell, who played in Boston for the two seasons before Wakefield arrived in 1995.
But even if age is inescapable, new beginnings continue to arise for Wakefield.
It was only a matter of time. Eventually, the Red Sox would need Wakefield in 2011 just as they have every year since 1995. That time appears to be now.
But in early part of the season, Wakefield has been something of an afterthought, biding his time in the bullpen doing mop-up duty. Of his nine relief appearances, all but one have come with a lead or deficit of at least four runs.
Just as it did in 2010, opportunity has knocked. With both John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the disabled list, Wakefield isn’t just thrust into the rotation. He’s suddenly entrenched.
Perhaps it’s fitting that Wakefield returns to the rotation in a series so steeped in historical remembrance. Two weeks ago, he bypassed Deacon McGuire as the oldest player in franchise history. In a career spanning from 1884 to 1912, McGuire played for a Matt Stairs-like 12 teams. His last appearance with the Red Sox came in 1908, the year the Cubs last won a title.
With Jamie Moyer inactive and Andy Pettitte retired, the gap between Wakefield and the next oldest starting pitcher is massive. He’s seven years older than Bartolo Colon and Derek Lowe, both 37.
Now back in the rotation, Wakefield’s quest for history resumes.
With 193 wins, Wakefield is the active MLB leader, needing seven more to reach 200. Interestingly, if he doesn’t get there, history will also be made. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the last time a season finished without an appearance by a 200-win pitcher was 1878. That’s when Tommy Bond of the Boston Red Caps led the way with 195.
Wakefield is 13 wins shy of tying the Red Sox record shared by Roger Clemens and Cy Young. On Sunday, he goes for his first victory of the season. It would mark his 17th straight season with a win for Boston. That’s a record he already holds, having passed Clemens and Bob Stanley, who went 13 consecutive years with a win.