This time around, Wakefield was left off Boston's AL Division Series roster against the Angels simply because he's not healthy enough to perform the bullpen role that manager Terry Francona would need from him.
The way the eight-day, five-game schedule plays out, Francona is going with a three-man rotation of Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling.
Wakefield has been dealing with back woes for more than a month, and he got a cortisone shot following his final regular season start on Saturday.
"In his role with us now, if something unfortunate ever happened to a starter, Wake would be asked to come in and fill something like that in the game," said Francona. "And he's not ready to do that. He's been fighting it for a long time and it's not fair to Wake."
Jon Lester, the No. 5 starter in Boston's rotation, made the roster in place of Wakefield and will serve as the long man.
If the Red Sox advance to the AL Championship Series, there's more than a fair chance that Wakefield would not just be activated, but also be used in the starting rotation.
In fact, the Red Sox waited until the very last minute before opting not to carry Wakefield as a reliever against the Angels.
"Because of our feelings for Wake -- some of the loyalty, some of the respect that's there -- we wanted to give him a chance to pitch on our roster, in this series," said Francona. "It wasn't fair to him and it was putting the team in a very difficult spot, which he understood. I've got to tell you, we intended to have Wake on this roster."
The 41-year-old Wakefield went 17-12 with a 4.76 ERA in 31 starts for the Red Sox. He is the senior member of the team in terms of years of service. Wakefield is the only player left from 1995, which was the last time the Red Sox entered the postseason as AL East champions.
The Red Sox will utilize a 10-man pitching staff during the Division Series, while going with 15 position players.
Beyond the starting rotation and Lester, the other pitchers on the staff are Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Eric Gagne, Mike Timlin, Manny Delcarmen and Javier Lopez.
In a bit of an unconventional move, the Red Sox will carry two backup catchers in Doug Mirabelli and Kevin Cash. The other reserves on the roster are Eric Hinske, Bobby Kielty, Jacoby Ellsbury and Alex Cora.
"In a five-game series, I think we felt comfortable going [with] 10 pitchers as long as there was health," said Francona. "So we try to maximize everybody on the roster by having the third catcher."
Ellsbury and Lester were not on the roster as of Aug. 31, but they were eligible to be added to the ALDS roster because they replaced two players who are on the disabled list: Matt Clement and Brendan Donnelly.
Pedroia ready for debut: Nothing has rattled rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia all season, so it's doubtful he'll be fazed by playing in the postseason for the first time.
"Once I get that first ground ball out of the way, the first pitch, it's like the beginning of the year; I'll be fine," said Pedroia. "I'll just go out and play. I'm excited about it. It's definitely going to be a thrill for me, being in my first postseason. I can't wait for the opportunity."
Local boy makes good: Delcarmen, the pride of Hyde Park, Mass., and West Roxbury High School, will get his first taste of postseason baseball. The right-hander has been one of Francona's top relievers this season.
"My goal was to get to the big leagues -- and hopefully with the Red Sox," said Delcarmen. "And, I mean, that dream came through. And right now we're in the playoffs. And my next goal is to try to win a World Series, and definitely for Boston."
Playoff intensity: The veterans in the Boston clubhouse shared a similar tone throughout Tuesday's media availability. Sure, each game is crucial in the postseason. But you have to treat it as much as possible like a normal game.
"The biggest key is we need to go out and relax and play," said Timlin. "If we try to attempt to do too many things too quickly, we'll tie ourselves in a knot and stumble in the first inning. We just need to relax, play our game and pitch well."
"This is what everyone plays for," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "It makes you understand how lucky you are to have these opportunities. [You need to] just harness them and focus on the things you can focus on and control the things you can control."
Slowing down the Angels: How to contain the Angels' running game?
"The biggest thing is to keep them off the bases," said Timlin. "If we can keep them off the bases, then we don't have to worry about the running game. These guys are good. They hit the ball, they hit and run, they steal, they know how to play the game. [Angels manager Mike] Scioscia has taught them a National League style. We just need to keep an eye on them and keep them close, and we have a chance."
Varitek will have a particularly tough task behind the plate trying to keep those runners at bay. But as the captain noted, it's not all about stolen bases.
"As far as running, we know they run," Varitek said. "It's not like we've never seen them. We have seen them. We have to do the little things in the outfield. That's when the running really takes a toll. They try to take a base on every ball that's hit to the outfield. We have to be in position to throw and back up and do the little things defensively."
Weapon in reserve: Francona is excited about the role speedy outfielder Ellsbury can play off the bench.
"He's got the kind of speed that can change a game," Francona said. "He can hopefully run for just about anybody in a game-changing situation. We can have Ellsbury play the outfield the last couple of innings, if need be. There are some ways that he can hopefully help us win some games."
Umpires announced: Gary Darling, a 21-year Major League umpire, will be behind the plate when the Angels and Red Sox kick off their series on Wednesday. Darling's crew will include Dan Iassogna, Brian Runge, Ted Barrett, regular-season crew chief Tim Tschida and CB Bucknor.
This is Darling's seventh Division Series assignment and his 11th postseason series, while it will be Tschida's seventh Division Series assignment and 12th overall. Barrett will be working his sixth Division Series and seventh's playoff series overall. Iassogna and Runge will each be making a second postseason appearance, while this is the first for Bucknor.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.