Red Sox Notebook

Wakefield forced into a tough spot

Today, Wakefield draws Hernandez

Kevin Youkilis, who tweaked his left hip in the seventh inning, may not play today. Kevin Youkilis, who tweaked his left hip in the seventh inning, may not play today. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 1, 2011

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Sometimes it seems Tim Wakefield is a contestant in some kind of baseball-themed reality show.

Today’s challenge will be for the 44-year-old knuckleballer to make his first start of the season against the Seattle Mariners after having thrown one inning in the previous 12 days.

His opponent? Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.

The rotation change came after scheduled starter Clay Buchholz was sent home Friday night with what manager Terry Francona described as “internal distress.’’

Buchholz was pushed back to tomorrow’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.

“He went home and had a pretty good night’s sleep,’’ said Francona. “But we’ll give him a day to get some strength under his belt.’’

Buchholz has thrown in the bullpen the last two days.

“I should be fine,’’ he said. “I just had the bug for a few days.’’

Buchholz was 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA in three starts against the Angels last year. He also was the only Red Sox starter not to face them this season.

Francona said the Sox are not sure of their rotation beyond tomorrow.

“That buys us another day or two to watch these guys and see where everybody is. Then we’ll kind of put it together,’’ he said. “We have the ability to do a few things. We’ll see how everybody’s feeling.’’

Wakefield has a 5.56 ERA over 11 1/3 innings and has not thrown more than 3 1/3 innings in a game, that coming April 11.

“We don’t know,’’ said Francona when asked how much the Sox could expect from Wakefield. “I talked to Wake about that. I said, ‘Stay with me.’

“Of all people, Wake is a little hard to [gauge]. His velocity is always the same. That doesn’t mean he’s not tired or his legs aren’t going. We’ll stay with him.’’

Hernandez is 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in eight career starts against the Red Sox. He allowed one earned run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings at Fenway Park last Aug. 25 and struck out nine.

The righthander is 3-2 with a 3.32 ERA this season.

Dice-K is OK Daisuke Matsuzaka, who left Friday night’s game in the fifth inning with a “tight’’ elbow, went through his normal post-start activity yesterday and is apparently not headed to the disabled list.

Matsuzaka had a sharp decrease in velocity and noticeably altered the mechanics of his delivery, causing the Sox to take him out of the game after 82 pitches.

“He was examined fairly extensively [Friday] night after he came out and actually did really well. So that’s good,’’ Francona said. “Certainly we want to keep an eye on him. Hopefully we just overreacted.’’

Francona felt taking Matsuzaka out of the game made sense given how uncomfortable he looked on the mound.

“Just kind of a bad day and move on,’’ Francona said. “I think that’s what Daisuke thinks and the trainers have said nothing different. They are actually very upbeat about this.’’

Matsuzaka was examined by the team doctors at Fenway Park and did not have an MRI.

Remy remains out NESN analyst Jerry Remy missed his fourth consecutive game with a case of the flu. Dennis Eckersley filled in for him on the telecast and Peter Gammons is on call for today’s game.

Remy missed a large portion of the 2009 season battling lung cancer. But on Twitter, he said this illness is not related.

“I’m OK,’’ Remy wrote. “My previous health issues have everybody concerned. Please don’t be.’’

Youkilis hurting Kevin Youkilis was replaced after tweaking his left hip in the seventh inning, in which he doubled. He may not play today.

“We’re going to have to check him out a little bit, but I don’t know about the turnaround,’’ Francona said. “This is something we don’t want to linger and we don’t think it will, but we’ll have to keep an eye on it.’’

Said Youkilis: “It’s all right. It’s a little tight.’’

Youkilis is having an odd season. Through Friday, he was tied for 11th in the American League with a .388 on-base percentage, but 77th (out of 96 qualified batters) with a .213 batting average. He went 1 for 3 in last night’s loss to the Mariners to improve to .218.

It’s all a matter of walks and strikeouts. Youkilis is third in the AL with 21 walks and eighth with 27 strikeouts. Just under 50 percent of his plate appearances have ended with him striking out or walking.

More oddities: Youkilis has more extra-base hits (11) than singles (6).

“The one saving grace when his average is low is that he has a high on-base percentage,’’ Francona said. “On the flip side of that, he has struck out. He has swung at probably more pitches out of the zone early this year than we’ve seen in a while.’’

Francona has noticed that Youkilis has been chasing pitches out of the strike zone and swinging to early at others.

“He’s just got to get locked in a little bit more,’’ Francona said.

Francona is convinced the early season struggles will fade.

“I’ll bet my bottom dollar he’ll be right where he’s supposed to be. He’s too good a hitter,’’ the manager said.

Just a number Dustin Pedroia was 0 for 4 and is mired in a 3-for-32 slump that has dropped him to .255. “I probably shouldn’t say that, but I don’t even look at his batting average,’’ Francona said before the game. . . . According to the Providence Journal, Dan Wheeler threw out the first pitch on Opening Day for the Warwick West Side Little League. The righthander grew up in the Rhode Island city and his parents live within walking distance of the field . . . The Sox’ ERA, which was 6.79 on April 15, has dropped to 4.24 . . . Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nine games and Adrian Gonzalez is up to seven games.

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