Thursday, March 23, 2006

Around the Horn - Catcher

So, with the regular season starting just so darn close, I'm gunna pull a on you and go a little position by position. Keep in mind the trades that will/must happen soon : Dustin Mohr (although he has an opt out clause that he can take the 30th making him a free agent, which means that the sox will get little to nothing for him) and Tony Graf. (Mets?). Keep your eyes open for that, but in the mean time lets start with the Catcher.

Jason Varitek and back-up back stop Josh Bard

Bard was part of the Cleveland deal that brought Coco into town. He won out the back up/Wake's catcher duties after John Flarety retired and Ken Huckaby went down for a while with a tweaked knee and was not able to do much for the spring. In 2005 with the Indians, Bard played in only 34 games, collecting 16 hits in 83 ABs for an average of .193. This is not stellar, however, the backstop was not brought in for his offensive skills fortunately. All reports from Fort Myers say that Bard and Wakefield are meshing quite nicely and Bard is taking well to the dancing butterfly. It will be interesting to see how he compares to Mirabelli during the season. This spring the switch hitter out of Texas has put up decent numbers (.278 BA, .333 SLG, .742 OBS) n 9 games this Spring. Traded away were Kelly Shoppach to the Indians (.148, .185, .509 in 12 games) and Doug Mirabelli tothe Padres (.478, .957, 1.512, ouch in 9 games). While Mirabelli's spring numbers are off the charts and really make Bard look foolish, remember that Mirabelli in his career (.241, .425, .753) was the perfect back up to Tek and that in Beantown, the back-up back stop deals with Wake. And that offensive numbers, while important, do not take into account the rapport with the knuckler. That being said, Mirabelli was great with Wake, and I was sad to see him go, but we got something for him. Bard, more importantly is turning out to be a adequate defensive replacement for Mirabelli and a good tandem with Wake.

Jason Varitek
With the Captain, the Sox have one of, if not the, best catchers in all of baseball. Another switch hitter, Tek has very few holes in his swing; particularly batting right handed where he absolutely crushes left handed pitching. So far this spring, Jason has seen limited action because of his involvement in the WBC, where the catcher showed why he was so valuable (.375, .714, 1.089) in 7 ABs. Varitek is also very well respected around the league for his ability to call pitches, to work with different pitchers and his scholarly approach to the game. While his only weakness as a catcher may be his arm, at merely average, Tek represents as close to the full package as you can get. With many young arms either in Boston or waiting in the wings, look for Tek have yet another huge year at the plate as well as behind it, juggling the old goats with the new kiddies

Catcher grade : A-


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