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Kottaras should not be judged by the knuckleball alone.

George Kottaras will probably only get one or two starts a week. Most of these starts he will be catching, or chasing after, a Tim Wakefield knuckleball. He will also probably be behind the dish on a day game following a night game. When an opposing base runner takes off for second he will be expected to throw them out, even though the knuckleball is very slow to the plate. Almost no attention is paid to his bat and whether or not he can use it or not. His audition for "catcher of the Future" is, unfortunately, solely dependent on how he handles the knuckleball. This perception that he needs to be the next Mirabelli is wrong and not beneficial to the team's future or his own.
While it's true that Mirabelli caught the knuckleball with some success there were no illusions about him being the catcher of the future. He was a back-up and little attention was paid to his bat. The attitude was that whatever offense he can give the team would be a bonus. In seven years with the Sox he hit .238 in 389 games, most of them while catching Wakefield. Josh Bard briefly had the job but was quickly traded when he struggled catching the knuckleball. Bard only played in 7 games but was charged with 10 Passed Balls. He was traded and ended up hitting over .300 for San Diego the rest of the year.
Now let's be clear: no one wants to see George Kottaras falling around and running to the backstop trying to catch the knuckleball. He will undoubtably struggle some. But if he is to be the catcher of the future he will only have to catch Wakefield for another year or two. Eventually Wakefield will retire or be forced out of the rotation by younger pitchers. I do not want to see Kottaras judged on his ability to catch the knuckleball. Nor should his arm be doubted if there is a constant parade of base runners to second base. It is very easy to steal against the knuckleball. Not only is the pitch itself slow to the plate, there is always the threat of it being mishandled by the catcher. I will be watching his offense, mainly his ability to work counts and hit for power. In 107 games for Pawtucket last year he hit 22 homeruns. His average was low, .243 with 110 strike outs, but he also had 64 base-on-balls. He deserves the chance to be Varitek's replacement. Whether he ever gets the chance or succeeds at his role remains to be seen. I would like to see Kottaras get two starts a week. This would get him more at bats and keep Varitek fresh for the long season. How he catches Wakefield will be important in the short term but he should be judged more by how he does with Beckett, Lester and the younger pitchers that will still be in the roation after Wakefield is gone.

Chris Allen


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