FORT MYERS, Fla. – Mike Carp is eager for his new start with his new team in a new season, and seems ready to forget the nightmare that was 2012.
After all, with three stints on the disabled list and an injury in his first game last year, it couldn’t have been much worse.
Playing left field for Seattle on opening night last year, Carp was injured trying to make a diving catch. It was the first time he was on a season-opening roster and wanted to impress. Instead he suffered a right shoulder sprain and was on the disabled list until May 1. And he didn’t make the catch.
Fast forward to Friday. After being acquired Wednesday by Boston, his mood and uniform changed dramatically.
“When you think about the tradition, everything that goes on, it’s one of baseball’s premier teams,” he said. “Just excited to be a part of it. Look forward to the opportunity that I get here.”
After the Mariners acquired Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, and Raul Ibanez in the offseason, Seattle designated Carp for assignment Feb. 13. The Red Sox then acquired him in a trade.
Carp, who turns 27 in June, was a ninth-round pick of the Mets in 2004 before a three-team trade in December 2008 sent him to Seattle. He made his debut in 2009, and is a career .255 hitter with a .327 on-base percentage. He was limited to 59 games with the Mariners last season, batting .213.
Carp will be among a group of players, including Daniel Nava, Lyle Overbay, and Mark Hamilton, vying for the job to back up first baseman Mike Napoli and left fielder Jonny Gomes. Carp was put on Boston’s 40-man roster and is out of options. But he knows the job is not guaranteed.
“It’s always a competition,” he said. “Somebody’s always trying to take your job. So you’ve got to stay hungry, stay healthy and keep at it. I saw some of the roster guys, how they put it together. It’s anybody’s game. You’ve got to perform. If you don’t, you don’t make the team.
“So that’s all I’m going to do. Go out and do the best of my capabilities and hopefully at the end of the day make the roster.”
Including his shoulder injury, Carp missed 78 games on the disabled list last year. Inflammation in his right shoulder sidelined him from June 11-July 24, and a left groin strain kept him out from Aug. 13-Sept. 4. It was frustrating after a career-high 79 games in 2011, batting .276 with 12 homers and 46 RBI.
“I had a lot of expectations coming into last year,” he said. “Big 2011, finally getting an opportunity to play. And it was just one of those tough-luck plays. It’s opening night. You can’t really write a better story than getting hurt opening night, I guess. I think it’s made me mentally tough and definitely kept me hungry for this year. Excited to be healthy for this season.”
Carp didn’t need surgery to repair his shoulder, just rehabilitation. It’s at full strength now.
“Yeah, it took some time,” he said. “It was a pretty significant injury. But toward the end of the season, that second stint on the DL (for the shoulder) really helped. We went through the whole rehab process, and been feeling normal ever since.”
Carp had not reported to spring training when the Mariners designated him. He passed his physical with the Red Sox on Friday, but likely will need a few days to get up to speed.
“Got on the field today and we’ll get him into a (simulated) game tomorrow where (Clay) Buchholz and (Franklin) Morales are throwing, just to begin to see some live pitching,” Manager John Farrell said. “Not going to say we’re going to put him through a crash course here, but today’s the first day he’s been in camp either here or in Seattle. So he’ll catch up to speed quick.
“In fairness to him, we’ve got to get him some rhythm and see some live pitching and see some drill work. But we would use him (at both first base and left field).”
Carp believes the Red Sox are a good fit for him. With a small sample size, he has had success at Fenway Park. In four games he’s batting .286 there with two home runs.