Monday, August 10, 2009

Wakefield's simulated game

If you, like many, have never seen a simulated game, here's a taste:

Tim Wakefield stepped to the mound at Fenway Park around 3 this afternoon with George Kottaras behind the plate and Josh Reddick and Chris Woodward holding bats. Manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell watched from behind a screen set up in the middle of the field, and general manager Theo Epstein and two of his assistants watched from outside the foul lines.

Woodward hit first, working the count to 2-2 before hitting a bloop to shallow center field that likely would have been caught. (If not: Ghostrunner on first!) Reddick stepped in next. Woodward followed. And so on.

Wakefield threw 51 pitches to those two hitters, the equivalent of three innings. He then was asked to cover first base with bullpen coach Gary Tuck hitting ground balls and Farrell making throws as the first baseman.

The final exercise came when Woodward laid down a couple of bunts, and Wakefield had to scramble off the mound to field them. All went well until the final bunt -- on which the 42-year-old knuckleballer tumbled to the turf with a grimace and a loud grunt and had to throw to first base while seated on the grass. He came up with a grin, though, so all appeared to be well.

"I think he showed you the athleticism he possesses," Francona said with a smirk.

The Red Sox will wait to see how Wakefield feels in the morning before making any decisions. Pitching hasn't been the issue all along; the problem has been a balky calf that hasn't let him scramble off the mound to field bunts and ground balls. If that feels OK when he reports to the ballpark on Tuesday, he and the Red Sox will take the next step in his road back to the mound.

"His calf is not 100 percent," Francona said. "It doesn’t affect him when he pitches. But it’s going to be important to see how he bounces back after running around out there. … We don’t want to make a mistake and pitch him too quickly."

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