It was 19 years ago that Tim Wakefield won his first major-league start and got a hardy handshake from manager Jim Leyland.
On Friday night, Leyland was present for Wakefield's 195th career win.
Leyland, now the manager of the Detroit Tigers, watched Wakefield fool his hitters with his signature knuckleball. Wakefield allowed five hits and two runs over seven innings in a 6-3 victory, the Red Sox' 12th win in 14 games.
One week after reentering the rotation for injured John Lackey, Wakefield has posted back-to-back stellar starts, allowing three runs on nine hits in 13-2/3 innings against the Cubs and Tigers. But right-hander Alfredo Aceves has been equally strong in two starts in place of injured Daisuke Matsuzaka.
With Lackey slated to return as early as next Sunday, the Red Sox figure to have a decision to make. Either Wakefield or Aceves likely will return to the bullpen.
"I'm just doing what I can to help us win games," said Wakefield, who won his 181st game for the Red Sox, 11 shy of matching Roger Clemens and Cy Young for the club record. "I was asked to fill a role here, and I'm trying to do the best that I can. It is what it is. It's out of my control, and we'll see what happens."
Before the game, Leyland paid Wakefield the ultimate compliment.
"He's a wonderful person," Leyland said. "He's all the things that are right about Major League Baseball, really."
Informed of Leyland's comments, Wakefield was touched.
"It means a tremendous amount coming from a guy that's been managing in the big leagues for a long, long time," Wakefield told the Boston Herald. "He's so well-respected in the game. He's proud of me. I know that. And I'm proud of the fact that I got to play for one of the greatest managers for the three years I was over there."
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