October 26, 2013

On Baseball: Mike Carp is great for the Red Sox to have in a pinch

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — It’s easy to forget he’s still on the team.

It has happened before. Mike Carp wears a Red Sox uniform, but the times he hits a baseball are usually measured by the swings he gets in batting practice hours before a game.

But just wait.

Eventually Manager John Farrell is going to need a clutch left-handed hitter in this World Series. Carp will be ready.

“Game on the line in the later innings and they bring in a righty, I’m sure I’ll be ready to go in and try to win a ballgame for us,” Carp said

In these playoffs, Carp is 0 for 6 and hasn’t appeared in a World Series game.

But Carp carries a reliable bat. Not only did he hit .296 for the season, including an .885 OPS (combine on-base and slugging percentage), but he’s 7 for 24 (.292) as a pinch hitter with three home runs.

When speaking of how General Manager Ben Cherington remade this Red Sox team, names like Napoli and Victorino come to mind.

Mike Carp? Seems like he was going to be released any day when the season began.

Carp, 27, joined the Red Sox in late February after the Mariners put him on waivers. He had batted .276 for Seattle in 2011 but in an injury-plagued 2012, hit .213.

Quiet, unassuming, Carp is easy to overlook. His voice can be soft but his faith is strong. And he is a loyal friend, forever. In his locker hangs a Seattle Mariners jersey that belonged to a best friend, Greg Halman, who died Nov. 21, 2011.

“Kind of take him everywhere with me,” Carp said.

In baseball terms, Carp’s value remained a question in spring training. While he was struggling (batting .178), switch-hitting Daniel Nava not only was hitting the ball well but demonstrating a smooth transition to play first base as a potential backup to Mike Napoli.

With Nava as the top backup in the outfield and first base, where did Carp fit in?

The answer wasn’t clear. And when rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. sizzled in the spring, it seemed surprising that Carp remained on the roster.

The season began April 1. Carp didn’t get into a game until April 7.

“I pinch hit. One at-bat. Then sat for another week,” Carp said. “At that point I was happy to be on the team.

“I didn’t have the greatest spring but I had those few weeks to take it all in and see what these guys are all about, which is to win every possible game.

“I knew the opportunity would present itself.”

Carp has been one of those players who buoyed Boston through injuries and slumps. He played 25 games at first base and 40 in the outfield.

And then there is his pinch-hit abilities.

All might come into play as the World Series moves to St. Louis, where the designated hitter won’t be used. There will be more lineup switches.

“There’s no question our bench is going to be involved in the next three days,” Farrell said.

And Carp still has that Seattle Mariners jersey hanging in his locker.

Halman and Carp were teammates in the Mariners’ organization until Halman was stabbed to death in the Netherlands, his native country.

“One of my best friends,” Carp said. One way he has dealt with the death is to always have Halman’s No. 56 jersey with him.

“I assume he’d be living the same dream, playing in the big leagues and trying to be at this position where I am right now,” Carp said.

“I try to do my part and bring him along. Just have his presence felt.”

Carp will think of Halman on Saturday. If alive, maybe he could have played in a World Series.

Carp is here. And in a key moment this weekend, he might grab a bat, hop out of the dugout and try to win Boston a ballgame.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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