Welcome Back Kapler

When Gabe Kapler was named manager of Single-A Greenville last December, many believed it was the first step towards eventually managing in the major leagues. As it turns out, it was just a one-year detour in his playing career.

Kapler, who turned 32 Aug. 31, announced Thursday he plans to play again next year. "I miss the battle, I still need to be on the field as a player," Kapler said in a statement issued by the Red Sox. "My body is as healthy as it has ever been, and I must take advantage of that. Managing was an important component of my development, and I am eternally grateful to the Red Sox for having provided me the opportunity to tackle a new challenge."

When he joined Greenville in December, Kapler said he knew he'd miss the game but that the only lure to playing in 2007 was financial. Kapler—whose passion and thoughtfulness allowed him to become a team leader with the Sox despite his irregular playing time—said he was looking forward to impacting the lives of prospects.

"[That] can be much more powerful than hitting a home run in a clutch situation or stealing a base or making a play," Kapler said during a conference call last Dec. 12. "I feel like this is going to be more rewarding for me than playing ever was. I understand that may sound naïve, but to me, that's what [he] feels. It feels right inside of my body, first and foremost."

Kapler recovered from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in September 2005 to hit .254 with two homers and 12 RBI for the Sox in 130 at-bats last year. Overall, he's hit .264 with 64 homers and 302 RBI for the Tigers, Rangers, Rockies and Sox in a career that began in 1998.

Kapler, who arrived in Boston as a free agent in July 2003 and returned to the club after a brief and unhappy stay in Japan in 2005, served as a fourth outfielder and the right-handed side of a platoon in right field. That role has been filled recently by Bobby Kielty, who is unsigned beyond this year.

Kapler steered the Drive to a 58-81 record this year. Under Kapler's tutelage, players such as Lars Anderson, Reid Engel, Josh Reddick, Jon Still and Dustin Richardson—all of whom were drafted in the previous two seasons—emerged as legitimate prospects.

"Managing was incredible for me this year," Kapler said in the Sox statement. "I learned so much about baseball, about the young men I had an opportunity to lead, and about myself.

"Ultimately, the experience reawakened the competitor in me."

LOOKING AHEAD: Josh Beckett will attempt to win his 20th game tonight, when he takes the mound for the skidding Sox against the Devil Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. If Beckett—who is in a tight battle for the AL Cy Young Award with the Indians' C.C. Sabathia—wins tonight, he'll be the first major leaguer to earn 20 wins since 2005 and the first Sox to reach the magic number since Curt Schilling in 2004. Sox pitchers have recorded 46 20-win seasons. Noted Sox nemesis Scott Kazmir is scheduled to start for the Rays.

Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

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