PAWTUCKET – Like a runner taking a short lead off of first base, Joey Gathright wishes to not look too far ahead.
The 30-year-old speedster understands why there’s a great deal of intrigue surrounding the Red Sox signing him out of the Independent ball ranks, and for a change the hubbub has nothing to do with him leaping over a car.
Gathright is widely regarded as a late-game pinch runner, a label he wore during his previous tour with the Red Sox two years ago. Having speed to burn is the main reason why he secured a spot on the Division Series roster in 2009 and why the possibility exists again come this postseason.
For now Gathright is a member of the PawSox. He mentioned Friday afternoon that he has had discussions with Boston management regarding what his assignment could entail, but that’s better left between the ballplayer and team.
“We talked but basically I want to come here and concentrate on what I have to do here,” Gathright said. “Stay in shape and stay ready, but if I start thinking about other stuff, I won’t concentrate as much as I need to (with Pawtucket).”
Gathright has swiped 80 stolen bases in six big-league seasons, recording a career-high 22 thefts in 2006 while playing for Tampa Bay and Kansas City. He was kicking around with the Yuma Scorpions of the North American League when the Sox signed him Wednesday. His manager was none other than Jose Canseco.
“You’re playing not knowing what’s going to happen or sure if anybody is watching,” said Gathright when asked if still harbored hope of returning to the majors, a place he hasn’t visited since appearing in 17 games with the BoSox late in 2009. “I was going to give myself a year or two just make sure people noticed. Going to play (Independent ball) is just another way to keep playing and to prove to myself that I’m still a good baseball player.”
Gathright joined Yuma on June 10 after starting the season with Shreveport, where he hit .190 in 98 at-bats. He rebounded to hit .347 in 61 games with Yuma with 20 stolen bases.
PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler was asked how he plans to utilize Gathright, who was not in the starting lineup Friday.
“We’ll use him in games as they would up (in Boston),” Beyeler said. “It’d be better to put him to try to win a game that’s already tied up, to pinch-run with a runner at second or a runner at third. He can play the outfield. He runs. He catches balls. He’s a proven big-league guy, so his defense isn’t that bad.”
The tradition of promoting the PawSox manager for the final month of the big-league season remains alive and well as Beyeler recently received an invite to join Terry Francona’s staff once Pawtucket’s season is through.
Having Beyeler around the Red Sox serves a few purposes. One, it puts a stamp of approval of the job done during the regular season. Second, it affords him the chance to experience the majors from the bench, something that can’t be recreated during spring training.
Finally, it gives Francona an extra coaching body in case a player asks for additional work, be it hitting grounders or throwing batting practice.
For his part, Beyeler plans to approach this September call-up a little bit differently than when Francona asked him to come on board in 2008.
“Nobody told me what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed to go in and bug (Francona) every day or hang out in the coach’s room or just sit in the dugout? Nobody tells you that,” Beyeler said. It’s different up there because there are so many people and everybody has got a job. You don’t want to do anybody’s job, but at the same time you want to help. But it’s neat to see how it all works up there.
“This time it’ll be a little bit more comfortable. The first time it’s cool because I was a big leaguer for the first time. To go up there and sit and just go ‘wow,’ but yet not act like that. Just be professional,” Beyeler added. “I just enjoy learning and watching these guys and see how they work at the big league level and see the best of the best go at it."
EXTRA BASES: Like Gathright, the Red Sox signed 38-year-old left-hander Trever Miller as a possible piece to the puzzle come October. That’s why Beyeler has been instructed to get Miller in as many games as possible. “They want to see him pitch so we’re going to use him. They want to see what he can do. Ideally we’ll use him against left-handers as much as we can.” … Drew Sutton was activated off the disabled list Friday after dislocating his finger during pregame drills – an injury that ultimately cost him a month. Sutton served as Pawtucket’s DH Friday. Said Beyeler, “He’s kind of on a rehab plan just like anyone else and see how it goes. His finger is the issue when throwing. (DH’ing) gives him an extra day to throw and see how it is and get his arm back in shape. We’ll put him in the field (Saturday).”