Wake To The Rescue

With a little help from one of the best knuckleball pitchers in baseball history, Pawtucket’s 10-game losing streak is over.


Wake 2 resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


I’m no pitching coach – although I sometimes play one on the radio – but Tim Wakefield certainly looks ready to return to Boston to me.  Wakefield pitched to 22 batters on Friday night and only one hit the ball hard, as the 43-year-old knuckleballer led the PawSox to a 2-1 win over Rochester.


“I felt great physically,” Wakefield told me after the game.  “Compared to last week, I think my strength has increased a tremendous amount from last week to tonight.  I was able to obviously throw more pitches, I had to cover first base – there’s still a little limp there – but nothing’s really bothering me to pitch.”


Wakefield’s knuckler looked nasty – especially when he struck out Steven Tolleson in the first inning on a feeble hack that brought to mind Charles Barkley’s golf swing.


Wake’s ability to field his position is probably going to be somewhat compromised for the rest of the year.  On a ground ball to first base that Aaron Bates bobbled in the 5th inning, the Rochester runner reached safely when Wakefield was late in covering the bag.


“It’s the way my leg is feeling right now,” Wakefield said.  “I kind of slowed up a little bit because I didn’t think there was going to be a play and there ended up being one and he beat me to the bag, but I think I proved to myself that I can field my position pretty well and physically I feel great.”


I’d be surprised if Wake’s next start isn’t in a Boston uniform.


* * * * *


One of the greatest tennis players in history threw out the ceremonial first pitch a couple of nights ago at McCoy – Mats Wilander, who is competing in the Hall of Fame Champions Cup this weekend in Newport.


Spike and Wilander resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Louriann Mardo-Zayat)


It was great to see Sean Danielson on the receiving end of Wilander’s toss, because Sean is easily the biggest tennis fan to play for the PawSox in recent seasons.


Before making baseball his primary sport, Danielson was an outstanding junior tennis player who was once ranked 6th in his age group in the state of Texas.  Jim Courier was his favorite player growing up, and he’s currently a big fan of Rafael Nadal.


It’s too bad the PawSox don’t have a day off while the tennis event is going on in Newport.  Wilander gave Danielson a signed tennis ball and told him he could use it like a free pass at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.


Now that’s a valuable autograph.


* * * * *


The winning run on Friday night was knocked in by Jeff Bailey who is likely to return to the Red Sox when major league rosters expand in September.


Bailey at Fenway resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)


The 2008 International League MVP is in his 6th season with Pawtucket.  Prior to Saturday’s game, I asked Bailey is he could see himself returning for a 7th year.


“7th, 8th, 9th, 10th,” Bailey said with a laugh.  “Yea, I could see myself here and that’s fine.  The Red Sox know me well, and I know what they’re looking for.  It’s a comfortable situation all the way around with the front office, RJ, and Tito so I would have no problem with that.  It’s just a matter of whether they’ll want me back or not.”


Let’s hope they do.  If minor league teams had captains, Bailey would wear a “C” on his Pawtucket uniform.


* * * * *


Pawtucket opens a 4-game series against Lehigh Valley on Saturday night at 6:05.  It’s a TV game, so if you can’t make it out to McCoy, I hope you’ll tune in on Cox Sports throughout Rhode Island.  I’ll join Bob Montgomery for the call beginning at 6:00.


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