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The Red Sox signed left-handed reliever Brian Shouse to a minor league contract 9 days ago, but made no announcement, in an attempt to conceal information about their new Secret Weapon. But now word has leaked out, and most experts agree that this move tilts the balance of power in the American League decidedly in the favor of Boston.
The 41-year-old Shouse is best known for his distinctive sidearm delivery, his jovial round face, and for his wildly devoted Internet Fan Club.
Generously listed at 5’11″ and an optimistic 180 pounds, Shouse went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 28 innings pitched for Tampa in 2009, when he was the 4th-oldest player in the American League.
The 41-year-old Pride of Effingham, Illinois brings a lot to the table: lefthandedness, age, experience, intangibles, lefthandedness, and a league-leading amount of Shouseness.
Affectionately known to his fans as The Shousenator, or WhatshisnameThatLeftyMopupGuy, Shouse has dominated left-handed hitters in his career, holding them to a .213 batting average and a .262 on base percentage in 350.2 career innings pitched. (Right-handed hitters have done vastly better against him, but let’s not change the subject.) Last season, Shouse held lefty hitters to a .224 batting average and a .246 OBP.
Shouse broke into the major leagues in 1993, with the Pirates of Tim Wakefield, John Candelaria and Lonnie Smith. After throwing 4 innings with the Pirates that season, he disappeared from the big leagues for five long years. (No one can confirm whether or not he spent those years battling undercover foreign espionage agents around the world; the CIA has never issued any statement on that issue.)
In 1998, Shouse mysteriously resurfaced with the Red Sox, where he joined such teammates as Robinson Checo, Donnie Sadler, and Chris Snopek, and led the team to the playoffs. With Shouse in the house, the Red Sox had their best season in 12 years, winning 92 games. Shouse faced 13 left-handed hitters in that storied season, and retired 10 of them.
Then, as mysteriously as he appeared, Shouse vanished from the major leagues. (More undercover work? Helping third world orphans? No one knows.)
But suddenly, in 2002, at age 33, the Shousenator reappeared with the Kansas City Royals. While his ERA slipped to 6.14 that season, baseball front offices liked what they saw. In a long-term spurt of Shousemania, Shouse has remained in the big leagues ever since, delighting fans in Texas, Milwaukee and Tampa with his Shousetastic sidearm pitching motion.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “A man builds a fine Shouse; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.” Lord Edward Coke added “The Shouse of everyone is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence, as for his repose.”
Shouse agreed to a minor league contract with Boston, which included an invitation to spring training, and possibly a large pizza with extra sausage. He will likely battle for a job as a left-handed specialist, and could make the team if the Red Sox keep 12 pitchers. He could also begin the season with AAA Pawtucket, laying low, out of sight, readying himself for his eventual role as lefty-killing-secret-weapon-and-savior-of-the-season.
The Red Sox, having previously fortified the infield with the acquisition of Tug Hulett, and the starting pitching staff with the signing of Boof Bosner, have now completed their transformation into prohibitive preseason favorites with the addition of the missing link, the legendary Brian Shouse.