Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield retires

Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield announced his retirement Friday after 19 seasons, including the last 17 with the Boston Red Sox.

"This has been the hardest thing I ever had to do, so it’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today to say that I’ve decided to retire from baseball," said Wakefield, according to The Boston Globe.

Wakefield made the announcement at a news conference at the team’s spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.

The 45-year-old leaves the game after recording his 200th win last September. He was the oldest active player in the major leagues last season.

The Red Sox had invited Wakefield to spring training, but were not guaranteeing him a roster spot.

"When it came down to it, I had to take a hard look at what I thought was best for me, my family and the Red Sox," Wakefield said.

"There is nothing that I want more than for this team to win, and it’s hard sometimes to take yourself out of the process. But in my heart, I feel that by retiring, I’m giving them a better chance to do that."

Wakefield, who bedeviled hitters throughout his career with a dancing knuckleball, won World Series titles with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and made his first All-Star team in 2009.

"Every time I stepped on the field, I gave everything I had. All I ever wanted to do was win. And the bigger goal was to win a World Series for this great city. Finally, after 86 years, we were able to do that," Wakefield said.

Wakefield’s 186 victories for Boston ranks third in franchise history behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens, who both won 192 games. He pitched the most innings in Red Sox history at 3,006.

Wakefield broke into the majors in 1992 with the Pirates, going 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 13 starts. Though the Pirates lost the 1992 NLCS to Atlanta, Wakefield won both of his starts in the seven-game series.

For his career, Wakefield finished with a record of 200-180 with a 4.41 ERA. He went 7-8 with a 5.12 ERA in 23 starts last season.

His departure leaves Mets righty R.A. Dickey as the only knuckleball pitcher in MLB.