By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON -- It was pretty apparent something was amiss 90 minutes before the Red Sox and Mariners began play in the second game of Wednesday’s day/night doubleheader at Fenway Park.
Sox pitching coach John Farrell was moving with urgency and purpose through the clubhouse to chat with Terry Francona in a closed-door meeting. Trainer Mike Reinold was scurrying around the clubhouse with a little more activity than usual.
Soon, it all made sense. Daisuke Matsuzaka had a sore lower back that put Friday night's start in Tampa Bay in question, so the Sox decided to lift Jon Lester from his scheduled start in the nightcap, push him back to Friday against the Rays, and use Tim Wakefield as an emergency starter against the Mariners.
"Daisuke went out to throw in-between games and he tightened up pretty quick. It was pretty apparent that he was throwing from flat ground and it tightened up," said Francona. "So they kind of came in a hurry. John Farrell came in the back, we got the doctor and I think [Sox doctor] Pete Asnis was here.
"I kind of put the doctor on the spot and he said, 'I can't tell you it's going to feel better tomorrow – and it could go the other way.' We thought about it and we said we'll pitch Wakefield tonight, we’ll back Lester up and we'll pitch Daisuke when he's able.
"We were trying to weigh having a game-time decision on Friday or not having a pitcher. We had to kind of get there in a hurry."
Lester will work against Tampa Bay ace lefty, and Cy Young candidate, David Price Friday night at Tropicana Field with two extra days rest. That will be followed by the Sox' own Cy Young hopeful, Clay Buchholz, facing Matt Garza on Saturday and John Lackey goinbg against James Shields on Sunday afternoon.
"We brought Lester in and explained to him what we were doing," said Francona. "We got to Wake and I thought Wake" -- who went 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs in the 4-2 loss -- "did a great job . . . especially under the circumstances."
Francona said there’s really no telling how badly Matsuzaka wrenched his back during the flat ground throwing session, and many questions will be learned on Thursday after a night’s sleep.
"We don't know and the doctor couldn’t say with any certainty. He said he could feel better tomorrow and he could feel worse," said Francona. "He'll show up tomorrow and we'll see how he feels."
Wakefield made his first start since June 20 and did remarkably well in his 91-pitch performances. Wakefield has been banished to a mop-up role in the bullpen for the better part of the last two months, but again proved his versatility by ably stepping in to make the spot start when the Sox needed him most.
"That's not easy to do, but Wake really did a good job and stepped up for us when we needed it," said Francona. "It's a lot to ask, but he did a very good job. We have multiple guys that would volunteer. [Scott Atchison] has done it before. That's not an issue. But to take the ball and facing one of the better pitchers in the league we gave ourselves a chance to win. I think we're all impressed with the way he handled himself."