Wake goes for 200
Big night for the Red Sox tonight in Chicago, as venerable knuckleballer Tim Wakefield goes after career win No. 200.
You might never see a story like this again. Just think, a position player who seemed to be going nowhere in the Minors, Wakefield liked to horse around with a knuckleball during practice. To keep his career going, Wakefield transferred that knuckleball into a savior, developing well enough in the Minors to get called up by the Pirates. Not only did Wakefield have smashing success at the outset of his 1992 debut, but he starred in the NLCS, nearly getting the Buccos to the World Series.
But two years later, Wakefield was down on his luck again. His knuckleball wasn’t doing what he wanted it to, and he did not throw a single pitch in the Major Leagues in 1994.
By the spring of 1995, the Pirates no longer had any interest in having Wakefield be a part of their franchise. They released him. Dan Duquette, who loved a reclamation project as much as anyone, decided to sign Wakefield. He made four starts for Pawtucket before getting a chance with the Red Sox.
What did Wakefield do with that shot in 1995? Oh, not much. He just got off to a 14-1 start, and helped lead the Red Sox to the division title. He has been a vital part of this team ever since, be it as a starter, a reliever or the insurance policy he started this season as.
Wakefield has become prominent again in 2011, not only because the Red Sox have been hurt by several injuries in their rotation, but because of the impressive milestone he chases. If Wakefield can get the win tonight, he will become the 89th man in the modern history of the game — since 1901 — to reach 200.
At the age of 44, Wakefield is holding down a rotation spot for one of the best teams in the Major Leagues. He is seven wins away from tying two guys you might have heard of — Cy Young and Roger Clemens — as the all-time winningest Red Sox pitcher.
And this doesn’t even speak of Wakefield’s role in the community, where he has been a pillar, and in the clubhouse, where he has been a class act. It should be a fun Friday night watching to see Wakefield go after 200.