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October 1, 2003

Tim Wakefield


Q. How much of a benefit would it be for you to have Mirabelli catch and talk about your relationship with him as pitcher/catcher?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Doug caught every one of my starts this year, so he's familiar with the way I pitch and we're on the same page with the way I'm going to approach these guys. Tek's caught me in the past. The reason he caught me in the last part of the year, in case I'm used out of the bullpen and he's happened to be in the game, we didn't want to give him a shock having to catch me coming out of the pen in a tight situation.

Q. Is pitching in a spacious park like Oakland more conducive to a knuckle ball pitcher like you?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I don't know. I know I'm a fly ball pitcher. I think that would benefit me a little more than pitching at home. I think that's the reasoning why I'm pitching Game 2 and not Game 3. For me, personally, it really didn't matter. I mean, pitch here or pitch at home, I think it's a great honor to even be pitching in the playoffs right now.

Q. Is there a comfort level for you when Doug is catching?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Yes, Doug is doing a great job for me all year long. He caught me a lot last year. I think we just need to go with, like you said, the familiarity with him behind the plate and me on the mound. I don't think you really want to chance it. Anything with Tek back there. I'm comfortable with either one of them, to be honest with you, Varitek or Mirabelli. Their decision to go with Doug to catch me, because he's caught me all year long. And I think he's more familiar with what I have at this particular moment.

Q. How long was it before you fully understood what a knuckle ball does and you were comfortable with it?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I'm still learning today. Talking to Joe and Phil Niekro and Charlie Huff and Candiotti, if you're not learning anything, it's time to get out of the game. I think you can say that about any player in the Major Leagues. If you're not constantly making adjustments or learning about your swing or your delivery, it's time to get out of the game. I'm still learning today about how the ball moves and different climates and different grips and different speeds. It's a constant game of adjustments for me personally. To answer your question, I'm still learning more.

Q. Is there a perfect condition for a knuckle ball?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I like pitching indoors a lot because of the vacuum effect, the consistency of the atmosphere. But an ideal condition for me outside would be just a little breeze blowing in my face because there is no resistance on the ball.

Q. How much does your past experience, especially in the playoffs, help you tomorrow?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I think it helps a lot. I think you can't substitute experience. We have a lot of guys on our team that have playoff experience, I think it helps us a lot. I know the Oakland A's have been in the playoffs with the exact same team they have here. It's going to be a tremendous series, and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. What have you learned from pitching in the playoffs?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Well, the thing I've learned is you really need to concentrate really hard on getting one out at a time. You can't let the game get away from you. I think the older I get, the more I seem to learn that, that the game can speed up on you real quick. To be able to slow the game down and take it one pitch at a time, I think is very crucial, especially in the playoff atmosphere.

Q. What is your versatility being able to come out of the bullpen also?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I'm anxious to start tomorrow, after that, to come out of the pen, I'll do whatever it takes to help us win. If it means coming out on short day's rest or coming out of the bullpen, everyone on our club feels the same way, Derek may be available in the pen today because he's not starting until Saturday. You have to throw all your cards on the table when it comes to the playoffs. Me, personally, I feel the same way, I'll have my spikes on every single day.

Q. Are day games or night games better? Is East Coast to West Coast any different?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I don't know. I haven't looked at my numbers when I pitch day games versus night games or East Coast versus West Coast. I don't know I can't answer that question honestly.

Q. Do you have a kinship with Steve Sparks?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Absolutely. When I first came up, there was Candiotti and Huff and Parks came along, Steve Springer, it's kind of like a fraternity we have. Every time we played Detroit we would get into the outfield and chit chat. I would watch him or he would watch me throw on the side. It's nice to be able to have a conversation with somebody who's doing the same thing you're doing. I really respect the fact that I was able to work with the Niekro brothers and talk to them and Charlie Huff when I was starting my career and Candiotti and veteran guys when I was younger on what they were thinking about.

Q. How does this playoff team compare to other playoff teams you've pitched on?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I've been asked that question 100 times already. Each team is different. I really feel this team, there is something special about it. I don't know if it's chemistry or offense, but one thing the organization did great this winter was get a bunch of ball players, a bunch of gamers. The chemistry we have among each other can't be bought, you can't go out and buy that. You have to tip your hat to the organization with Theo and Grady and the acquisitions that they really made in the offseason to put together such a great team.

Q. Does pitching in this series put to rest any bitterness you might have had last time?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I put that to rest in 2000. It's another playoff team. It's my fifth one. I'm just really excited about our chances with the team that we have. I really feel it's an honor that I will be able to pitch in Game 2.

Q. Varitek and Millar were talking about a high level of confidence. Do you agree and share that thought?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Absolutely. We've had that kind of confidence coming out of spring training when we set our goal to get to the playoffs, and we accomplished that a week ago. Just the confidence the team has, and we've shown that all year long, whether we're down a couple of runs going down into late innings of the ballgame, we've shown we've been resilient and come back to win a lot of games. It just shows the depth and character of the team we have we're putting on the field tomorrow.

Q. Can you talk about the Oakland lineup and your approach to it?

TIM WAKEFIELD: They have a strong lineup, very patient hitters that make a lot of contact. My approach is going to be the same as it was with any other team during the years. I have to be able to throw strikes and try to get outs, as many outs as I can get. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Q. What percentage of your pitches are knuckle balls?

TIM WAKEFIELD: If I had to guess I would say between 80 and 85 percent. I don't know what my numbers were for the course of the year, but that's my bread and butter and I'm going to live and die by that. I don't want to get hurt in the course of a game with my second and third and fourth best pitch. You're going to see a lot.

Q. Why doesn't the knuckle ball fraternity grow?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with how kids are scouted now. I mean a lot of it relies on the radar gun, I don't think a lot of organizations are going to take a chance on a college or high school kid that throws a knuckle ball. They want somebody that throws in the 90s that they can develop into a power pitcher later on down the road, regardless of -- I'm a firm believer that knuckle ballers do exist in college and high school and if given the chance, I think they can make it to the big leagues, but it's up to different organizations whether or not they want to take the time and effort to hone somebody's skills at that level.

End of FastScripts...

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