Print  Print © 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

Kottaras finds place to hang mask
06/01/2007 9:17 AM ET
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- You could say that George Kottaras is used to a change of scenery.

Since being signed as a draft-and-follow by the San Diego Padres in 2003, Kottaras has called six different cities home. The 6-foot, 190-pound catcher is looking for some consistency with the Pawtucket Red Sox in his first year in Triple-A.

"It's going well," said Kottaras of his first two months in Pawtucket. "I feel very comfortable here, and everyone is treating me well. It's been a good experience."

Kottaras entered the Red Sox organization rather anonymously, coming over from the Padres as the player to be named later in the David Wells trade. It wasn't too long, though, before he made his impact felt.

In his first game with the Sea Dogs, the second of the first-round playoff series, Kottaras announced his arrival with a two-run homer in the third inning. He added another homer in Game 3 as he helped lead Portland to the Eastern League championship, batting .276 (8-for-29) with two home runs and eight RBIs.

"I have never been a part of anything like that before," Kottaras said. "When I came over, I didn't want to step on anyone's feet. [I] just came in, and [said] 'whatever you need me to do, I'll do it.' I just went out there. The guys are great. It was an outstanding experience."

Kottaras also squeezed in a trip to Greece during the 2004 Summer Olympics, where he played on the host country's baseball team. He served primarily as a backup catcher and interpreter.

"I was one of the only guys that spoke Greek on the team," said Kottaras, the son of two Greek immigrants to Canada. "So I was kind of like a tour guide. It was pretty neat."

But as scouts, fans and coaches have found out this year, change doesn't always brood statistical success for the seemingly unflappable Kottaras. The native Canadian has struggled this season, batting .191 with eight RBIs and only one homer.

"This guy has a ton of ability," Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson said. "When you listen to the ball come off his bat, it's got a different sound. And it's really interesting, because he's not one of those guys that grunts or moans, he's really quiet, but the ball explodes off his bat."

"I'm really pleased with George," Johnson added. "Even though his numbers aren't way off the chart, he has handled himself with a lot of maturity."

Kottaras notes that in Triple-A, players are better, and it's just a matter of making adjustments. He thinks his trip to Red Sox Spring Training this year helped him. Red Sox catchers Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli advised Kottaras on the importance of routine and putting himself in a position to help the team.

"He's a young player getting adjusted," Johnson said. "It's a double-edged sword for a catcher because he's also adjusting to the pitchers and continuing to learn to call games."

On May 30 against the Columbus Clippers, Kottaras seemed to be making progress as he hit a line-drive double to left center and came around to score later in the inning. He later added a deep sacrifice fly to left field.

However, Kottaras is quick to point out that success is not necessarily about statistics. The way he plays the game is more important. Kottaras' role on the team and how he fulfills it are his key goals.

"[I have to] try to be consistent," said. "[I'm] trying to do my best to still learn the organization, learn all the players."

"He's a smart enough kid to figure it out," Johnson said.

If history serves as any indication, it's only a matter of time.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.