BOSTON -- No police escort was needed this time to bring Doug Mirabelli back to the Red Sox. Instead, general manager Theo Epstein quietly re-signed the man who has been Boston's backup catcher for more than five years.
A rock behind starting catcher Jason Varitek during most of his time with the Red Sox, Mirabelli struggled mightily last year -- particularly at the plate.
"Doug has done a lot for this club over the years," said Epstein. "I think last year was a disappointing year for him. I think he would say that, and we would certainly say that. He's got a lot to prove. He's taking a fairly sizable cut in pay and has a lot to prove. He wants to demonstrate that he's an integral part of this club, and certainly he has been in the past."
Mirabelli, who made a base salary of $1.5 million in 2006, will make $750,000 in '07. However, incentives could bring it up to $1 million.
"I think you're getting a guy who's going to work extremely hard this winter to re-establish himself as a valuable, contributing member of this team," said Epstein. "From talking to Doug, that's the approach he's taking. Last year was not the real Doug Mirabelli. He wants to be in Boston; he doesn't want to be in a situation to let the team down and let his teammates down. He has a lot of pride in himself and is going to work hard this winter to make sure he plays a more fundamental role next year."
The Red Sox began the 2006 season without Mirabelli after the winter trade that sent him to the Padres for Mark Loretta. But after Josh Bard struggled catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball over the first month of the season, Epstein reacquired Mirabelli. The deal didn't have a good short-term return, with both Bard and reliever Cla Meredith (the two players sent to San Diego) thriving and Mirabelli hitting .193 for the Red Sox with six homers and 25 RBIs.
Mirabelli did have one unforgettable day. That being May 1, the day Epstein re-acquired him. With the Red Sox having a game with the Yankees that night and Wakefield pitching, Mirabelli was swiftly jetted across the country so he could return to Fenway Park for that contest.
Mirabelli hopped in a police escort once he landed in Boston, changed his uniform in the car and got to Fenway literally just minutes before the first pitch. The Sox won the game behind a strong effort from Wakefield.
The one overwhelming strength Mirabelli has is the superb way he handles Wakefield.
"I think the one guy we know can catch Tim Wakefield is Doug Mirabelli," said Epstein. "There comes a time if that's not a viable option, you have to experiment. But I think any time you have a known commodity as far as someone we know who can handle him, it's a check mark in his favor."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.