PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Dusty Brown positioned himself to take the throw home, just like he’s done for the past 10 years as a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.
P.J. Pilittere of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre raced around third, trying to score on a single to left. Outfielder Aaron Bates charged the ball and fired home to a waiting Brown.
“Just another play at the plate,” Brown said. “Nothing weird about it. I caught it and the guy’s out by a mile.”
It might have been better if Pilittere had tried to jar the ball loose. Instead he slid.
“He slid in feet first,” Brown said. “His cleat just caught my glove. Instead of taking my glove off, my thumb stayed in it, and (the thumb) just took it all.”
Ligaments were stretched and sprained. The official diagnosis was a sprained thumb. Sounds simple. But after that June 22 game, a cast was fitted on Brown’s left hand. He will wear it until later this week, and hopefully return to baseball activity the next week.
A minor injury. A major opportunity missed.
Brown, 28, is the Red Sox’s No. 3 catcher, behind Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek. If one of them couldn’t play, Brown would be summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket.
So what happens? Five days after Brown is injured, Martinez breaks his thumb.
A healthy Brown would have been called up. Instead, Pawtucket’s No. 3 catcher, Gustavo Molina, gets the call (Pawtucket’s other catcher, Mark Wagner, has a broken bone in his hand).
Then Varitek lands on the disabled list last week with a broken foot. Boston trades for catcher Kevin Cash to return.
So, instead of being Boston’s No. 1 catcher this week, Brown is in the familiar Pawtucket clubhouse, looking for a card game with a couple of relievers.
Surely, the missed opportunity weighs on Brown. But when asked, Brown shrugged.
“It is what it is,” he said.
Brown was drafted in 2000 and began his pro playing career the next year. His career has included two seasons with the Sea Dogs (2006-07).
Last year, Brown was competing for the Red Sox No. 2 job with George Kottaras. But it wasn’t a fair fight. Unless Brown was clearly superior, Kottaras would get the job because he was out of options and couldn’t go back to the minors.
Brown did go back last year, although he was called up twice to the majors, making his debut in June, and returning in September, and homering for his first major-league hit.
When Boston obtained Martinez last July 31, Kottaras faded away. He was released in November and picked up by Milwaukee, where he is the backup catcher.
Brown’s future with the Red Sox is in doubt. This is his last year with options. Boston must keep him on the major-league roster in 2011 or let him go.
Much is up in the air next year. Neither Martinez nor Varitek are signed.
Boston will bring in other catchers next year, with Brown and Wagner, competing for jobs.
Brown would have had an opportunity to show his major- league worth were it not for a player sliding into his glove.
It is what it is.
THE PAWTUCKET roster is full of former Sea Dogs, including five who were called up this year — pitchers Felix Doubront, Robert Coello and Tommy Hottovy, first baseman Lars Anderson and outfielder Ryan Kalish.
Doubront, of course, was also summoned for a spot start in the majors — a five-inning effort for a win June 18. He described his experience in three words:
Coello has 21 strikeouts in 16 innings and might be getting a call to Fenway if the Boston bullpen continues to falter.
Hottovy has allowed three hits in seven innings, and is looking to reduce the walks (five).
Kalish missed about 10 days with a sore hip. He’s back and hitting .269 with three straight two-hit games.
Anderson, who batted .355 in 17 games for Portland, has been streaky. His average is down to .222. Anderson is .272 (41 for 151) against right-handers, and .047 (2 for 43) against lefties.
“People always told me that the biggest jump in pitching was High-A to Double-A. To those people, I say you lied to me,” Anderson said, laughing.
“Seriously, it’s been a challenge. I think the pitching is much better here. I’ll become a much better hitter once I get it down a little bit.”
Anderson overcame adversity last year, batting only .233. That experience is helping him now.
“I just went through, like an 0-for-30 thing,” he said. “I was beside myself. But I had this inner core feeling that OK, I feel myself being a total head case right now and really mentally out of it, but I have this inner feeling that I’m going to get through it, that I’m going to be fine, which is really cool.”
JASON PLACE is back in baseball. Place, 22, a first-round draft pick in 2006, rejoined the Red Sox organization this past week and is in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Place had left the Sea Dogs for personal reasons on May 13. He was batting .127 at the time and placed on the temporary inactive list.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: