Wake 'shocked' to see Mirabelli go
Sox knuckleballer will miss personal catcher's friendship
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They had been a tandem for most of the last seven seasons. When Tim Wakefield was on the mound, it was a virtual lock Doug Mirabelli was behind the plate.
Now, Wakefield, the Red Sox knuckleballer, must adjust to life without Mirabelli, who was released Thursday morning.
In 12 seasons, Mirabelli has hit .231 with 58 home runs and 206 RBIs. With Boston, he hit .238 with 48 home runs and 160 RBIs in 389 games over seven seasons.
"[I was] shocked, very shocked," Wakefield said Saturday morning inside Boston's clubhouse, the first time he spoke on the matter.
"I don't know what else to say about it. I think I was on the field [during batting practice], and somebody came and told me that Dougie got released and I'm like, 'What?' I came in [to the clubhouse] and found out the truth. [Manager Terry Francona] called me in the office right after that and told me. I'm saddened by the whole situation, but it's a business decision on [the team's] part."
Kevin Cash, who spent most of 2007 with Triple-A Pawtucket, appearing in 12 games with the Red Sox, will likely now serve as Wakefield's catcher.
"I feel like Cash can do a good job," Wakefield said. "But I'm going to really miss Doug, not only his professionalism and the way he handled me and the comfort level that I had with him, but also his friendship. We've been together for eight years, accumulated a lot of wins and been through a lot of stuff together. It's unfortunate that it happened that way, but you kind of have to get past that and understand that I'm still an employee here and it's their decision to make.
"I spoke with [Cash] afterwards. He feels bad about it, but he's also excited that he's going to catch me. I told him that I don't have any doubts that he'll do a good job, because he proved that last year. It's just sad to see a good friend go, get released and go home. We've been through a lot together, so it's pretty tough."
The Red Sox acquired Mirabelli in a trade with the Rangers in June 2001. In the middle of the 2002 season, Mirabelli began catching primarily for Wakefield, providing regular relief for Jason Varitek.
"Dougie is a very smart person," Wakefield said. "He struggled the first couple times, and then he kind of taught himself his own technique of what would make him better [at catching the knuckleball]. Then after throwing to him for a couple years, he really got to know me and my mechanics when it became that he was just going to catch me. So he worked hard on watching me, watching me throw, picking out little tidbits that may improve during the course of the game, like 'Hey, you're flying open,' or things like that.
"That's hard to do when you're trying to catch a knuckleball behind the plate and watch me at the same time. But he was very good at it"
Wakefield also praised Mirabelli's abilities to catch Boston's other pitchers.
"I feel like he has the best hands that I've ever seen anybody catch, not only me, but anybody," said Wakefield. "He's one of the best receivers out there."
Mirabelli was sent away by the Red Sox before, in December 2005, when he was traded to the Padres for infielder Mark Loretta. Boston reacquired Mirabelli in May 2006, after Josh Bard had difficulty handling the knuckler, Mirabelli returning in a renowned cross-country flight on a private jet and Massachusetts State Police cruiser escort from the airport to Fenway Park.
For Wakefield, having Mirabelli leave this time is more difficult to accept.
"I think it's worse now knowing that more than likely he won't be back, which is sad," Wakefield said. "Dougie was a great teammate, not only was he my personal catcher and friend, but I think he had a lot of guys in that clubhouse [who] respected his opinion. He watched other hitters. He watched other pitchers. He was just a great teammate.
"Even David [Ortiz] said there's times when David would be hitting and Dougie would say something to him -- 'Hey, you're doing this wrong.' He cared about everybody on this team. His opinion, even though he was a backup catcher, his opinion was very important to everybody. He was a factor in our clubhouse, and a factor in our team's chemistry."
Wakefield, who hopes Mirabelli gets picked up by another team, knows he must accepts the situation.
"I have to," he said. "Obviously, my feelings for Doug are very strong. When you lose a friend like that, it takes a while to get over it. But I have to. I have to move on. It [stinks], but I have to compete, so I can't dwell on it too much. Obviously, when I'm not competing, it's something I think about. It was weird [Friday], coming into the clubhouse and him not being here."
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.