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Red Sox catcher finds groove
Kevin Cash, a Gaither High graduate, had little experience in catching unpredictable knuckleballs.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published August 21, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG -- Considering the way Red Sox catcher Kevin Cash handled the first hitter Tim Wakefield's faced Monday night -- with three of the four pitches to Rays leadoff hitter Akinori Iwamura bouncing off Cash's mitt -- it appeared it was going to be a long day for the Tampa native and former Devil Rays reserve.
For the Red Sox, every game matters, and Boston can't allow wins to slip through its hands -- literally.
With Wakefield's personal catcher, Doug Mirabelli, on the DL with a strained right calf, the spotlight was on Cash, a Gaither High graduate, as he faced the unenviable task of corralling Wakefield's dancing knuckleballs just two days removed from Triple-A Pawtucket.
But after he recovered from a rough first inning, he performed admirably in the Red Sox's 6-0 win over the Rays.
"I thought he looked pretty confident," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It wasn't a fake confidence. I think he was having fun trying to accomplish something that's pretty difficult.
"He wasn't on pins and needles, so I don't think we should be."
His experience with Wakefield was limited spring training side sessions and short Sunday pregame throw-and-catch. And despite handling a pair of knuckleballers in Triple A -- Charlie Zink and John Barnes -- it didn't compare to the movement on Wakefield's pitches.
"I knew he'd settle down," Wakefield said. "I think he did a phenomenal job out there."
After spending the entire 2006 season at Triple-A Durham, Boston signed Cash this offseason as a minor-league free agent. Cash, who last played in the majors with the Rays 25 months ago, said he was flustered early on.
"I felt good in the pen catching him, and when I got in the game and the hitters get in there and it's the real thing, and then I just didn't know what was going on," Cash said. "But I tried not to let it get to me too bad."
And he made an impression.
"We enjoyed what he brought, his attitude," Francona said. "Sometimes guys band together because of circumstances. There's such a comfort level when Dougie catches, and you throw a kid in there when every game is important for us and he gave us a boost."