Carp-e diem: Mike Carp's cool hand heats up

photo courtesy Matt Stone, Boston Herald

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

Much like Horace’s oft-quoted Latin axiom, Mike Carp has been seizing the day of late and commanding the spotlight in his role as a utility player off the Red Sox bench.

In his latest stint as sparkplug, Carp went two-for-three with a walk in Sunday’s 6-1 win over the visiting Houston Astros.

He singled in the fourth inning, eventually coming around to break a 1-1 tie on a Stephen Drew triple, and then doubled in Dustin Pedroia to give the Sox a four-run cushion in the fifth.

It was yet another marquee day for the 26-year-old understudy.

In the series opener against Houston April 25, Carp went two-for-four with a double, two runs scored and another RBI.

In just 11 games filling in for the Sox this season, Carp is a gaudy .455 at the dish, going 10-for-22 with 19 total bases (five of them doubles, two triples) and five RBI.

It’s a small sampling, but nonetheless impressive when one considers that seven of those 10 hits have been of the extra-base variety.

What’s even more incredible is that all that offence has come in just the past six games he’s taken the field for the Sox.

Carp is catching fire in a big way — and at the exact opportune moment.

He’s proven to be a more than adequate substitute for Jonny Gomes, who flashed some prodigious leather against the Astros on the weekend but is hitting an anemic .158 at the dish. With Ellsbury a safe bet in centre and a fiend on the basepaths and Daniel Nava reliably filling the shoes of injured Shane Victorino in right, it’s a vicious, dangerous troop patrolling the outfield for the Sox at present.

Carp, acquired by the Red Sox during spring training for the nonspecific player-to-be-named-later, had a history of big swings and timely hits for the Seattle Mariners, but shoulder and groin injuries marred his time in the bigs and earned him a roller-coaster ride back and forth from Seattle to the minors several times in 2011 and ’12.

For the Sox, landing Carp was a low-risk gamble that has thus far paid big dividends.

"We've always liked him as a hitter," said Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington. “There's a history of getting guys out of Seattle, the tough hitting environment. It was a combination of a pretty strong minor-league track record and some big-league success and, subjectively, our scouts have always liked his swing and approach."

Sox manager John Farrell agrees. “What’s been most impressive is (his) ability to stay inside the ball and drive it to left field,” manager John Farrell said. “…Mike Carp has given us a very nice lift in the role that he’s been in.”

To his credit — and the Red Sox’s — Carp has more than seized the day. He’s earned the respect of both teammates and manager John Farrell, not to mention an everyday role for the surging Red Sox early in the season.

It’s worth noting that Carp wears No. 37 — the same number sported by Paul Newman’s eponymous convict in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke.

The Red Sox had nothing to lose by trading for Carp. Now, it appears, they had plenty to gain.

And, much like Luke himself says in the film, Carp is proving that “Sometimes, nothing can be a real cool hand”.

Twitter: @jan_doh