Notes: Cash ready for stint with Sox
Catcher will handle Wakefield, provide relief for Varitek
BOSTON -- He played his last Major League game at Fenway Park -- but that was July 19, 2005, when Kevin Cash wore the green of the visiting Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
On Sunday, Cash was again ready to take the field at Fenway, newly minted as the backup catcher of the Boston Red Sox. The 29-year-old callup, who also spent parts of two seasons with Toronto, fully understands the difference between then and now.
"I mean, you come to this ballpark, and all you see on the Jumbotron is highlights of Red Sox big hits, big wins -- everything," Cash said. "You contribute to that, and fans and people are going to remember."
Not so in St. Petersburg or Toronto, or in any number of Minor League cities toured by Cash in two seasons with Triple-A Durham and Pawtucket. On Friday, Cash was in Ottawa, watching the Red Sox-Angels score by computer on the Pawtucket team bus to Lynx Stadium, when he saw that Doug Mirabelli had injured his leg. Two seconds later, Cash said, PawSox manager Ron Johnson received a call. Seven hours later, Cash was in Boston.
"I can't think of anything more exciting than playing for the best team in baseball right now, with a lead in the AL East," Cash said. "It's part of my job now to help maintain that lead. So it's very exciting. I'm looking forward to the next couple of days and weeks, whatever that brings."
Cash got the start on Sunday to give a rest to Jason Varitek, who stepped in when Mirabelli strained his right calf running the bases and then proceeded to catch 27 innings in 24 hours.
"I figure we'd better play the other catcher," manager Terry Francona said.
In his pregame press conference, Francona was asked why the team called up Cash instead of catching prospect George Kottaras, a 24-year-old, two-time Minor League All-Star who teamed with Cash at Pawtucket.
"George needs to play," Francona said. "He's still got a lot of developing to do. It doesn't mean he's not going to be a good player. But to bring him in the middle of August, in the middle of a pennant race, won't be fair to him either.
"The reason we have Kevin Cash," he continued, "was just for [situations like] this."
Cash to catch Wakefield: His name properly suffixed to sound like "Dougie" Mirabelli, Cash will catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleball until Mirabelli returns.
"If Cashie doesn't catch it," Francona said, "he'll go pick it up, and Wake will throw it again. I don't think it'll affect the way Wake pitches, which is, I think... a pretty big compliment to Wake."
Cash and Wakefield played catch on Saturday, preparing to become batterymates on Monday against Tampa Bay. Cash, who handled a pair of knuckleballers, Charlie Zink and John Barnes, in the Minors, said that with luck, the team speed of the Devil Rays can be minimized by Wakefield's effectiveness as a pitcher.
"If guys get on base, I'm going to do what I can to throw them out," Cash said. "But Wakefield's going to control the game. I'm not going to ask him to alter his game plan, because they get a couple of fast guys on base."
But, said Francona, "there's no simulating game speed when Carl Crawford's on first."
"Maybe he won't get on first," he added.
Staff uncertainty: Shortly after Saturday's 10-5 victory, which Jonathan Papelbon closed out after having already warmed up, Francona declared that Papelbon wouldn't be available on Sunday. The Sox manager wouldn't commit to naming which relievers, if any, would be unavailable for the series finale.
"We don't usually announce that," Francona said on Sunday. "[The Angels' Mike] Scioscia is a good manager. He doesn't need my help. If you don't see them throwing, there's a good chance they're not coming in."
Left-handed setup man Hideki Okajima also pitched on Saturday for the second night in a row. It is possible that Eric Gagne could be called upon to save Sunday's game. With Julian Tavarez spot-starting, the Red Sox could need a collective effort from the bullpen.
Francona wouldn't hazard a guess about Tavarez's pitch count for the Sunday afternoon tilt.
"It could be all over the map," Francona said. "If he's struggling, it could be not very high; if he's good, he's probably one of the guys that I think you can somewhat throw [pitch counts] out the window. If not completely, at least a little bit."
Ortiz still hurting: Any recent success -- like his game-changing grand slam on Saturday -- comes in spite of David Ortiz's aches and pains, and not because they have healed, Ortiz said on Sunday.
Ortiz's shoulder still makes an audible sound when he swings the bat. Thus, he hinted, it is not difficult to imagine that his swing mechanics have faltered, leading to a relatively disappointing 21 home runs through four and a half months.
"You know, for me, I've got to get fully extended through the zone," Ortiz said. "Because every time I get extended, my shoulder pops. And creates pain. So now, when you take the swing and you meet the ball, you feel that pop, and you feel like you don't want to do that again because it's not a comfortable feeling."
Still, Ortiz homered on consecutive days for the first time since June 19-20. He might have had three; he said that his eighth-inning double in the left-center field gap in Game 2 on Friday would have been a home run to center if he'd been able to take a full swing.
Ortiz said he has felt better in recent days with more powerful painkillers, which have nevertheless been "tough on my stomach, too."
Signings: On Saturday, Red Sox director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod announced the signings of six players selected in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Long Beach, Calif., high school shortstop Ryan Dent, the 62nd overall pick in the supplemental first round and the team's second pick after college pitcher Nick Hagadone, leads the pack. Also signed were William Middlebrooks (fifth round), Anthony Rizzo (sixth), David Mailman (seventh), Austin Bailey (16th) and Drake Britton (23rd). Third-round pick Hunter Morris was one of the selections who did not sign. The infielder/outfielder will attend Auburn University.
On deck: Batterymates Wakefield and Cash travel to St. Petersburg, where Wakefield owns a perfect 8-0 record and 2.33 ERA. Red Sox slayer Scott Kazmir will get the start for Tampa Bay. First pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.