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10/10/07 7:30 PM ET
Notes: Shoppach denies doubters
Byrd's personal catcher relishes Game 4 win over Yankees
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- Across the nation, seemingly every talking head and two-bit scribe was openly questioning the Indians' decision to start Paul Byrd in Game 4 of the American League Division Series. Kelly Shoppach, Byrd's personal catcher, was somehow oblivious to it all. "I didn't know that!" Shoppach exclaimed when the subject was brought up before the Tribe's workout on Wednesday. "I didn't know any of that until after the fact. It's like, 'What are y'all doubting us for?'" And if you think Shoppach was upset to hear about the doubts involving Byrd, how do you think he felt when it came to his attention that people also called into question his right to be in the lineup for that pivotal playoff game? "I didn't know that either, obviously," Shoppach said. "But it is what it is. We've done it all year. Until you're out there battling with a man 31 times throughout a regular season, you can't fully know him. When they said Byrdie is going to pitch, I had no doubts that I was going to catch, and I had no doubts on what I needed to do to prepare myself to play and be successful." He was plenty successful. Not only did Byrd turn in an outing that defied the doubters, Shoppach, in his postseason debut, came through with a pair of doubles and a run scored. "Fortunately, I got a knock," Shoppach said, "and that makes everybody say it was worth it." Shoppach still feels fortunate to be a part of this team. The AL Championship Series against the Red Sox will take him back to his Boston roots. He was a second-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft and played four seasons in their Minor League system before playing nine big league games for them in '05. In the winter before the '06 season, Shoppach was a piece of the seven-player deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston. Returning to Fenway Park, as Shoppach has already done twice now with the Tribe, carries no special significance to him. "At this point, it hasn't crossed my mind, until it's been brought up," said Shoppach, who has batted .571 with a homer in seven at-bats against his former club. "It's a playoff game. There's no personal incentives for me or any of us." If anything, Shoppach has nothing but good feelings for the Red Sox. "They did me a favor by trading me here," he said. "I don't have any doubts I'd still be in [Triple-A] Pawtucket if I was still with them. Instead, I'm in the playoffs with the Indians." And he'll continue to get involved in the postseason action, as long as Byrd -- the Tribe's likely Game 4 starter -- keeps pitching. "It would be a shock to me if he pitched again and I didn't play," Shoppach said. "If they take that away from me, what the heck do I have left?" Nice gesture: Eric Wedge knows that Yankees manager Joe Torre has a lot on his mind these days. Most notably, his job security.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.