Kelly Shoppach was the Red Sox’s second-round pick in 2001 and debuted for them in 2005, but was traded to the Indians in the Coco Crisp swap that offseason and went on to establish himself as a solid backup catcher who crushes left-handed pitching.
Now he returns to Boston to fill that exact role, with Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reporting that Shoppach has agreed to a one-year, $1.35 million deal with the Red Sox.
When pressed into extended duty Shoppach has struggled to hit above .200, but if limited to a platoon role versus left-handed pitching he’s capable of being very effective. Shoppach has been useless against righties during the past three seasons, hitting just .156, but he’s hit .262 with a .372 on-base percentage and .488 slugging percentage off lefties.
Starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, but he’s been much better against righties (.265 AVG, .772 OPS) than lefties (.207 AVG, .604 OPS) during his career. Pairing him with Shoppach is a good fit and the price is certainly right.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.