Thursday, June 26, 2008

Catch as Cash Can

It's almost a perfect storm in baseball: the Red Sox at Fenway, a knuckleballer on the mound, and a player I've enjoyed watching in the minors behind the plate.

Kevin Cash was booted back and forth between Toronto and Syracuse for a number of seasons. Once upon a time he was considered a hot prospect, but that fizzled out as so often does with young players, the reason sometimes obvious, sometimes mysterious. Cash was one of the few SkyChiefs I rooted for and I was disappointed that he wasn't getting a serious chance with the Jays.

Tim Wakefield filled me with terror when he was the closer for the BoSox, but as a starter he's a perennial. Like any knuckleballer, he has his days, those when the ball dips and dances and flutters and floats unhittably by the batters, and those when it's Home Run Derby time.

It takes someone special to catch a knuckleball. It takes someone with a lot of collected cool, especially when that someone catches only every fifth day.

Back when Wake was in the bullpen, Jason Varitek was the guy who geared up whenever Wake got the call. But Tek is too valuable to the Sox to relegate him to caddy status, much too valuable to risk injury at the hands of the knuckler.

Once Wake was part of the rotation, the Sox found a caddy for him, Doug Mirabelli. And Doug's ability to wrangle the knuckleball and maintain sanity as a part-time player neutralized his hitting ability. Which wasn't all that bad for a guy in his position. Theo Epstein was credited with an error for trading Mirabelli away, redeemed himself by getting Doug back, literally just in time to catch Wake.

And now Mirabelli's gone. It seems his replacement is on hand. Kevin Cash makes catching a knuckleball look easy, almost easy. That he is able to throw out a runner attempting to steal second while catching said knuckler is close to amazing. Hitting a homer off the Unit? Kevin Cash has secured his position, yoked to Tim Wakefield, not a bad place to be.

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