Shoppach gets the nod vs. former club

BOSTON -- Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach sat at his locker in the clubhouse Friday morning at Fenway Park looking at a scouting report on Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price.

“You can never study enough,” Shoppach said.

Before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent during the offseason, Shoppach played the previous two seasons with the Rays. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Shoppach’s familiarity with his former team played into starting him today over Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

“This is just one of those things with a left-hander pitching and his old team in town,” Valentine said. “He’s hit left-handers well and that’s the reason why we got him. If anybody knows this team, I would think he does. We’re just trying to get it done.”

Beckett and the Sox should have an advantage over the Rays with Shoppach behind the dish, right?

“Yeah, all the blame is on me,” Shoppach said with a laugh. “I’m supposed to know these guys better than anybody. If we mess it up, it’s my fault.”

This is Shoppach’s second stint with the Red Sox after the club originally selected him in the second round of the 2001 draft. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of the Coco Crisp deal and spent four seasons with the Indians before signing with the Rays.

When he was a prospect in the Red Sox organization he was expected to one day replace Jason Varitek as the club’s everyday catcher. Now that Shoppach is serving as the backup to Saltalamacchia, he’s pumped to be starting on Opening Day at Fenway Park.

“It’s cool. It’s neat,” Shoppach said. “It doesn’t really mean anything to me more than playing in a big league ballgame. It’s a neat deal and I was surprised when I got here today. It’s just a game and it’ll be fun, but it is a neat deal for me, personally.”