Sox score coup in Carp

May, 3, 2013
5/03/13
12:49
PM ET
BOSTON -- Greetings from the Edes cave (the Sox went to Texas unaccompanied), where we know whose bleeping city we’re living in but had little clue that this was Mike Carp’s world and we’re lucky to be inhabiting it.

While David Ortiz, as is his custom, has monopolized the attention with his sensational start, Carp has been a poor man’s Papi, and if anyone says they saw this coming, Jack Morris has a lie detector test to give them.

Carp heads into this weekend’s series against the Rangers with a higher slugging percentage than Ortiz (1.000 to .897) and anyone else in the American League with at least 25 plate appearances.

(A quick primer on slugging percentage. It is calculated by dividing the number of total bases—four for a home run, three for a triple, two for a double, one for a single—by the number of at-bats. Carp has 28 at-bats, 28 total bases, ergo 1.000.)

Carp also has a higher on-base average than Ortiz (.516 to .512), and in seven starts, he is batting .478 (11 for 23) with 5 doubles, two triples and a home run, and 5 RBIs (eight overall). He also has a pinch-hit home run, which he hit Wednesday night in Toronto.

You can’t stop Carp, you can only hope to contain him?

“I sure hope so,’’ he said recently. “I hope that’s the way it goes all summer.’’

The Seattle Mariners practically gave away Carp this spring, designating him for assignment on the eve of camp. The Sox, down a left-handed option when Ryan Kalish required surgery on his other shoulder and uncertain whether Daniel Nava could master a new position, first base, cut a deal for Carp for cash and/or the PTBNL.

Carp showed little in spring training -- he was coming off a season plagued by a shoulder injury he sustained diving for a ball in the outfield on Opening Night in Tokyo—and didn’t know until the day before the Sox broke camp that he had made the club, the Sox opting to jettison Lyle Overbay, who wound up with the Yankees.

With the Sox deciding to take a look at rookie Jackie Bradley Jr., a superior outfielder who had had a sensational spring, Carp languished on the bench for the season’s first two weeks, collecting just 3 at-bats in 13 games. His first start didn’t come until April 17 in Cleveland, when he hit two doubles and a triple, and was back on the bench the next day.

But with outfielder Shane Victorino out for the last week with inflammation in his lower back, Carp has gotten the chance to play, platooning with Jonny Gomes in the outfield and on Thursday night starting at first base while Mike Napoli served as DH and Ortiz took the night off.

“My confidence is high,’’ Carp said even before he went on his most recent tear. “I knew I was going to get a chance to play. I didn’t know when.
“And I knew I didn’t have to worry about anything -- my body hurting, my shoulder. It was definitely a confidence builder.’’

Originally drafted by the Mets in 2004, Carp was traded to Seattle in 2008 and showed flashes of his potential in 2011, when he had a 20-game hitting streak and was named to Baseball America’s All-Rookie team.

But Carp, who now says he probably came back too soon from his shoulder injury, wound up spending a second stint on the DL for the shoulder and another with a groin injury. He wound up batting just .213 in 59 games for the offense-starved Mariners in 2012, and GM Jack Zduriencik made a series of offseason moves that made Carp expendable, acquiring three players -- Mike Morse, Kendry Morales and Raul Ibanez -- to play the same positions that Carp did.

Sox GM Ben Cherington, contacted almost immediately by Carp’s agent, Tom O’Connell, when the player became available, eventually cut a deal that has paid dividends far beyond what anyone envisioned in March.

“All his doing,’’ manager John Farrell said Thursday night. “He’s done a tremendous job with the early work, the cage work, the extra BP that he’s taken. To watch him in here while he’s on the bench, he’s studying the opposing pitcher and how the pitcher is attacking our left-handed hitters.

“This is clearly his ability to stay sharp and, like any player, you get some early results, that confidence is going to build. And I think that’s what’s happening.’’

Victorino is scheduled to return Friday night against the Rangers, so it will be interesting to see how Farrell can carve out playing time for Carp, especially with Nava playing as well as he is. But he has earned his chance.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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