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They're caught in a squeeze

Mirabelli's injury forces scrambling

As Doug Mirabelli chugged around third base, he slowed. Sure, he's not Jacoby Ellsbury on his feet, but he isn't usually this slow.

And he usually doesn't limp. So it was clear that something was wrong. Wrong enough, as it turns out, to keep Mirabelli on the shelf for at least two weeks.

As the catcher made his way off the field with a strained right calf after scoring the Red Sox' sixth run, Jason Varitek started to get ready. For him, it would be a long day.

Because there were still 17 innings of baseball to be played. And he'd be catching every one

"I knew right away," Varitek said after he finished catching the 8-4 win over the Angels in the first game of yesterday's doubleheader. "I think I had an instant adrenaline rush. He doesn't hobble, and the look on his face was that something wasn't good. He wanted to go back out there and he couldn't. So we made the switch."

And after the game, the Sox made a roster switch, placing Mirabelli on the 15-day disabled list and purchasing the contract of catcher Kevin Cash from Triple A Pawtucket.

Mirabelli wobbled around the clubhouse between games wearing a full boot and declining to speak with reporters before the extent of the injury was known.

"It looks like it's a calf strain, a legitimate calf strain, which is usually two weeks on the short end of things," general manager Theo Epstein said after Mirabelli was examined. "We'll see. Right now we're anticipating it will be the full 15 days and hopefully not too much longer."

The injury occurred after Mirabelli doubled home Mike Lowell in the first. When Alex Cora doubled, Mirabelli took off. He appeared fine as he headed toward third, but soon he was in obvious pain.

Not long after that, Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson's cellphone rang in Ottawa, where the PawSox are playing. He was instructed to get Cash to the airport. It took a while longer to get to Boston.

Cash had a four-hour wait in the airport before his 6:25 p.m. flight -- the last one to Boston. He arrived at Logan Airport at around 8:30, then made it to the ballpark by the sixth or seventh inning. "No police escort," Epstein joked.

"You don't want to ever hear that Doug went down, but that's kind of the situation," Cash said. "I'm going to fill in, see what I can do. Crazy day, but exciting. It's just exciting to join the best team in baseball. If there's any place to play in baseball, it's Fenway Park."

Cash provides experience. The 29-year-old has played 114 games in the majors during a four-year span (three with Toronto, one with Tampa Bay), though he was in the minors throughout 2006.

Mirabelli's injury created complications beyond fetching a backup from Canada. Clay Buchholz, making his major league debut, had spent Thursday's offday working exclusively with Mirabelli. Fortunately, Buchholz said, Varitek had been in on the pregame meeting when hitters were discussed -- though it wasn't until well into the game that pitching coach John Farrell reminded Varitek that Buchholz throws a slider.

Beyond that unfamiliarity, there are other considerations.

Mirabelli has been the personal catcher for Tim Wakefield, whose next turn has been pushed back a day until Monday in Tampa. Cash has experience catching knuckleballers (the organization has two, Charlie Zink and John Barnes, who have spent time in Triple A this season), as does Varitek.

"Any catcher that signs over here takes that into consideration," Cash said. "They know Jason, his workload, that that's usually his day off, when Wake pitches."

Varitek expressed no reservations about being conscripted to catch Wakefield.

In fact, he expressed no reservations about any of it. Catching the knuckleball. Catching both ends of the doubleheader. Catching whenever and wherever needed. Between games, Varitek again donned his shin guards, which hung on hangers in his locker. "If you get real close," he said, smiling, "it smells pretty."

Regardless of fragrance, they got quite a workout.

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