Mirabelli Returns To Red Sox

After trading Doug Mirabelli to the Padres in December, the Red Sox discovered that they didn’t have anyone who could handle Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball. On Monday, Boston solved that problem by reacquiring Mirabelli from San Diego in exchange for Josh Bard, Triple-A righthander Cla Meredith and $100,000.

Mirabelli, 35, is a dependable backup catcher who offers some pop at the plate. Most important to the Red Sox, he quickly showed an affinity for catching Wakefield after originally joining the club in mid-2001. Bard had 10 passed balls in five Wakefield starts this year, while Mirabelli handled him flawlessly in his first game back on Monday night against the Yankees. He also has a solid arm. Like many catchers, he has well below-average speed. Mirabelli had played in just eight games with the Padres as Mike Piazza’s backup, going 4-for-22 (.182) and throwing out two of six basestealers. He’s making $1.4 million in 2006, the final season of a two-year, $3 million contract, and will become a free agent afterward. Mirabelli is a career .239/.327/.419 hitter with 47 homers and 165 RBIs in 460 games.

Bard, 28, came to Boston in the January trade for Coco Crisp. He never has been much of a hitter for average and offers only some modest gap power, but his calling card had been his work behind the plate, particularly his arm strength and game-calling skills. His 10 passed balls with Wakefield were one more than his previous career total in 149 games. Bard played in seven contests for the Red Sox, going 5-for-18 (.278) and throwing out just one basestealer in 13 attempts. He’ll be eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2006 season. He has batted .240/.293/.368 with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 163 career games.

A sixth-round pick out of Virginia Commonwealth in 2004, the 23-year-old Meredith became the second player from that draft to reach the majors when he joined Boston’s bullpen last May. He gave up a grand slam to Richie Sexson in his debut, then four runs in his next two appearances before returning to Triple-A Pawtucket. Meredith posted a 0.76 ERA in the minors before his promotion but hasn’t been the same since. He seemed to lose confidence and changed his approach, trying to trick hitters rather than going at them aggressively. At his best, Meredith features an 87-90 mph fastball with exceptional sink, and his crossfire delivery makes it that much tougher for righthanders to pick up. His slider is a fringy second pitch. He had a 5.27 ERA in eight appearances at Pawtucket this year, with a 14-5 K-BB ratio, .302 opponent average and one homer allowed in 14 innings.

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