Wakefield pitches early to rest Schilling, Dice-K

Updated: September 18, 2007, 10:35 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- Boston manager Terry Francona wants his starting staff to be well-rested by the time the playoffs begin.

The Red Sox will pitch Tim Wakefield in the finale of the three-game series at Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving right-hander Curt Schilling four extra days of rest before his next start. Schilling will pitch against Oakland on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Boston is also giving rookie right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka three extra days of rest before his next scheduled start, Saturday at Tampa Bay.

"We're really trying to line up that last week and beyond," manager Francona said.

The Red Sox's AL East lead shrunk to 2 games over the Yankees Tuesday after Boston fell to Toronto and New York roughed up Baltimore.

Schilling, 8-8 with a 3.97 ERA in 23 starts, last worked Sunday against New York, allowing four runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings to fall to 0-3 in his past four starts.

Matsuzaka's last outing was Friday against New York, when he allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He is 14-12 with a 4.41 ERA in 30 games this season but just 1-4 in his past seven starts.

"At some point, there was going to be a three-day extra rest period," Francona said. "We elected to do it now, as opposed to before a playoff game. It just didn't seem to make a ton of sense. Rest is great, but if there's any rust you'd rather have it now."

Wakefield (16-11) took the loss against Toronto on Monday, allowing four runs and seven hits in six innings. He is 0-1 in three starts since missing a turn on Aug. 31 because of a sore lower back.

Rookie Clay Buchholz will start against Toronto on Wednesday, the right-hander's first start since throwing a no-hitter against Baltimore on Sept. 1.

Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher in major league history to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts, doing it for Cincinnati in 1938.

Buchholz is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three games this season. He threw the no-hitter in his second career start.

Boston is off Thursday before starting its final road series Friday night in Tampa Bay. Right-hander Josh Beckett, working on five days rest, will pitch Friday. The Red Sox are off again Monday before finishing the season with six home games, two against Oakland and four against Minnesota.

"We'll set up the rotation how we think serves us completely, now and in the future," Francona said. "We're certainly aware of what has transpired this year, what guys have gone through and what we hope they will go through. We continue to make decisions based on all the factors."

Most of all, Francona wants to avoid a repeat of 2005 when, with their rotation uncertain, Boston was swept by the Chicago White Sox in the first round of the playoffs.

"We went down to the last day not knowing, went into the playoffs and got knocked around a little bit," Francona said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press