CLEVELAND -- Can it be that the team whose rallying cry once was “25 players, 25 cabs” has morphed into a team that has adopted the motto, “22 players, 1 dinner reservation?”
And does that 22:1 ratio have anything to do with this number: 10-4, the Sox record through 14 games after their 6-3 win over the Indians on Wednesday night, their fastest start since they opened the 2006 season 10-4? [Only a spoilsport would note the Sox, crippled by a rash of injuries that season, missed the playoffs.]
Manager John Farrell mentioned on his weekly radio show Wednesday that the lads all congregated for a communal meal after landing in Cleveland on Monday night. It was a spontaneous affair, Farrell insisted.
"Much like when you get on the road, guys say, ‘Hey, let’s meet in the lobby for dinner,' " Farrell said. “Twenty-two of them showed up. I don’t want to downplay the events we just left [the Marathon bombing) in Boston, but I think what we’ve quickly come to see, this is a group that likes to be around one another. I think those are all encouraging signs."
Here are a few signs even more important than the fellas all ordering off the same menu the other night:
* Sox relievers Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Andrew Bailey retired all 12 batters they faced. Tazawa entered in the sixth with the tying run on second and no outs, set down the last three batters in the sixth and three in the seventh, whiffing the last four.
Uehara pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, whiffing the last two.
And Bailey earned his first save of 2013 with a 1-2-3 ninth, whiffing the last two.
* Right-fielder Shane Victorino had three hits, a sacrifice bunt that led to the final run, was hit by a pitch, scored two runs and threw a man out at second.
* Mike Napoli drove in two more runs with a two-run single in the first.
* Dustin Pedroia extended his streak of reaching in every game with two singles.
* And Daniel Nava bounced back from a four-K game the night before with two run-scoring singles.
Carp (sic) diem: Mike Carp was hands down the 25th man on the Sox roster entering play Wednesday night. It started back in February, when he was designated for assignment by his former team, the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners waited the maximum 10 days before trading him to the Red Sox, who waited until the day before camp broke before informing Carp that he had made the club.
“When they finally told me, it was definitely a weight off my shoulders," he said earlier this month. “I knew it would be an uphill battle for a spot. Fortunately for me, versatility was on my side for once. A defensive first baseman, and with my shoulder healthy, I was able to play the outfield again."
Still, through the team’s first 13 games, Carp had collected just three plate appearances, and might still be buried on the bench if the team’s spring sensation, Jackie Bradley Jr., hadn't been in a 0-for-20 slump with a BA of .097. Wednesday night, manager John Farrell gave Carp his first start, playing first base, and Carp responded with doubles in his first two-at bats and an RBI triple in his third before being excused for the night, Farrell lifting him for pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes in the seventh.
The three extra-base hits in a game were a career high for Carp, who made a successful debut for the Mariners in 2011 (AL Rookie of the Month in August) but sent his career into a downward spiral on Opening Night in Japan last year, when he dove for a fly ball by Kurt Suzuki and sprained his right shoulder.
He returned a month later, but the shoulder quickly weakened again and he returned to the DL twice more during the summer. By June, his throwing arm was so weak that Seattle was able to use him only at first base, and his hitting suffered, as he finished the season batting .223.
Over the winter, the Mariners added Kendry Morales, Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse, leaving Carp a man without a position. But the important thing for him, as he decamped in Florida with the Red Sox, was that his shoulder was finally healthy again after a winter of rest.
“You take away your throwing shoulder, it definitely limits you as far as what you can do as part of a team, where you fit in, what your strengths are going to be," Carp said, “because you don’t know how your body is going to feel.
“To come in with that peace of mind -- ‘Hey, I’m back where I used to be, let’s go out and have fun and try to win a job -- that made it a good transition. I had a lot of fun with it.
“I didn’t have the greatest spring, but I worked on things I needed to, I got healthy in the outfield, I was able to play there again, I bounced around at first, did a little DHing. By the end I felt locked in."
Fish tales: Carp’s big night, of course, gives us an excuse to run baseball’s All-Fish team, which ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield [“Sweet Spot”] zealously researched a couple of years ago, with a buddy of his, Ted Bishop. Carp, of course, cracks the roster.
Take it away, Sweet Spot:
C -- Steve Lake. [Hey, you gotta catch the fish somewhere.]
1B -- Randy Bass.
2B -- Cod Myers. [The Adam Kennedy of the 1880s.]
3B -- Neal Finn. Nicknamed Mickey, he hailed from Brooklyn and played for the Dodgers and Phillies.
SS -- Lip Pike. A star in the National Association, the first professional league, leading the circuit in home runs and RBIs in 1872.
IF -- Bobby Sturgeon. A shortstop and second baseman with the Cubs in the '40s, hit one career home run in 420 games.
OF -- Tim Salmon. Hit 299 career home runs, all with the Angels.
OF -- Kevin Bass. An NL All-Star with the Astros in 1986.
OF -- George Haddock. Played from 1888 to 1894.
OF -- Johnny Gill. Had 3,141 hits in 23 minor league seasons and 79 in the majors.
OF/1B -- Mike Carp.
P -- Catfish Hunter.
P -- Dizzy Trout.
P -- Mudcat Grant.
P -- Steve Trout.
P -- Jay Hook.
P -- Marlin Stuart.
P -- Art Herring. Also known as "Red."
P -- Brandon Puffer. Had 5.09 ERA over four seasons [2002-2005].
P -- Chris Ray.