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As a bonus to Sports of Boston’s preview of the Red Sox starting rotation, here’s a preview for Tim Wakefield:
The elder statesman of the bullpen, Wakefield will probably see most of his action as a long-reliever. But given Beckett’s and Matsuzaka’s injury issues, he’ll probably make a spot-start or two before his final season is over. Will he win 14 games and retire as the winningest pitcher in Red Sox history? Probably not.
He hasn’t won that many games since winning 17 in 2007, and that was when he a) started all of his games, and b) had a catcher who could catch the knuckleball. Neither will be the case this year. Wakefield doesn’t want his final season to be as unsuccessful as 2010 (4-10, 5.32 ERA, 140.1 IP, 84 K, 36 BB), but it’s unclear whether he can do anything about it. Wakefield seemed to entirely lose his feel for the knuckleball after the All-Star Break, losing 13 of his final 14 decisions. Wakefield has always been streaky, but he’s never had as prolonged a losing streak as he did in the second half of the 2010 season.
Will Wakefield return to form next season, winning decisions and putting together the long scoreless streaks of yesteryear? Or will his final season be marked by ineffectiveness as it was in 2010? No one will know until April.
The Red Sox rotation went 65-39 last season, which means a little over a third of their games were decided by their inconsistent-at-best bullpen. This resulted in an 89-73 record, their fewest wins since 2006. Experience should generate a few more wins for the starters, and the bullpen has been much improved. This should all translate to another season in which the Red Sox win over 95 games.
It all starts in 9 days.