BOSTON — Lyle Overbay, who lost out to Mike Carp in a positional battle during Red Sox spring training, has put together a nice season since being thrust into action for the injury-plagued Yankees. But regardless of Overbay’s success in the Bronx, it’s already clear the Red Sox made the right roster move in camp.
Carp always had a leg up on Overbay because of his ability to play the outfield. Overbay gave the outfield a spin during spring training, but Carp had a major league track record of moving around, so the decision became rather obvious once neither player sizzled at the plate. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a point of indecision, though.
Watching Overbay thrive in pinstripes might have been a bit unsettling for Red Sox fans at first. After all, the guy was in the Sox’ grasp, and now he’s producing for their division-leading rival in New York. But Carp keeps proving why he fits in with Boston.
Carp found his way into John Farrell’s lineup on Friday, and he delivered a huge three-run home run in the Red Sox’ 8-1 win. Carp began Saturday’s game on the bench, but he still left his mark, smacking a pinch-hit, game-tying double off the left-field in the eighth inning of a 7-4 victory.
“Low-maintenance swing. He can hit a fastball. He’s always been able to do that throughout his career, and he pays attention,” Farrell said of Carp’s ability to answer the call. “He knew probably ahead of time [Saturday] — probably two innings ahead of time — when that spot was coming up, knowing how they try to build back to [Indians closer Chris] Perez and [Vinnie] Pestano was probably going to be in that spot at some point. He stays ready. That’s not an easy role. We talked about this [Friday] with the inconsistency of regular playing time, but [he had] a key hit [Saturday].”
It’s hardly the first key hit for Carp. He’s now 3-for-10 with a double, home run and three RBIs when pinch-hitting this season, and 11 of his 15 hits this season have been for extra bases. That includes three home runs in just 54 plate appearances.
Overbay has eight home runs and 28 RBIs in 161 at-bats with the Yankees this season while serving as the everyday first baseman. The Red Sox’ starting first baseman, Mike Napoli, is doing just fine himself, and Carp has had his fingerprints all over Boston’s early-season success. Whether it’s filling in in the outfield — something that’s especially important given Shane Victorino’s injury issues — or coming up with a timely at-bat, Carp keeps accepting whatever challenges are tossed his way.
The Red Sox could have settled on Overbay, whom they signed before Carp, and called it a day. Instead, they went out and traded for Carp, and the move is already paying dividends.