By MARC TOPKIN
Times Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA — It's a good thing the Rays thought Kevin Cash could be their starting catcher in 2005-06. Or Chad Gaudin might not be in the World Series with the Yankees this year.
Former general manager Chuck LaMar's decision to trade the then-21-year-old with the live right arm and loads of potential for Cash, a backup with the Blue Jays, started Gaudin on a journey that has led him to the big city, and a chance to play a large role, possibly even starting Game 5 on Monday.
"Being that I was young, I guess they were giving up (on me), or going in a different direction," Gaudin said. "Maybe that's what they needed. I don't really know — that's what I was told. I just believe everything happens for a reason."
He has had reason to believe, as he was traded again a year later from Toronto to Oakland and, after going 20-18, 4.00 over parts of three seasons for the A's, again to the Cubs in July 2008.
But the real test came this season, as the Cubs released him at the end of the spring and he signed with the lowly Padres for the chance to pitch and didn't do well, going 4-10, 5.13. But the Yankees needed an extra arm and picked him up in an early August waiver trade, and he did everything they asked, starting six games (the Yankees winning all), making five relief appearances, compiling a 3.43 ERA and filling an important role.
"He came here and he really has been more than what we expected," catcher Jorge Posada said.
The Yankees considered starting him tonight in Game 4 but chose to go with CC Sabathia on three days' rest. They instead may turn to Gaudin on Monday.
The uncertainty and the waiting (he'd pitched one inning since Oct. 3) aren't easy, but Gaudin considers where he is and is adapting. "Just embrace it, have fun with it, enjoy it while it lasts," he said.
LaMar — who, coincidentally , is now an executive with the Phillies — said he traded Gaudin for good reason. Starting catcher Toby Hall's salary was going up due to arbitration, and the Rays felt Cash — a Tampa product — would be a dependable backup with the chance to become a light-hitting, good-glove and inexpensive starter.
Gaudin was bounced between starting and relieving with the Rays and was trying to learn on the fly under the glare of manager Lou Piniella, but LaMar said last week they knew what they were giving up. "The ability (Gaudin) has shown over the last 3-4 years is how we had him evaluated at the point where we traded him," LaMar said.
Their mistake was in what they got back. "Kevin Cash played quite a few years in the major leagues (parts of seven seasons, including 10 games this year with the Yankees before being released), but he never became that guy who became so good defensively that he (could start)," LaMar said.
Gaudin isn't complaining.
"It's been a great road and I'm glad I'm where I'm at — and it's not over yet by any means," he said. "I started in a great organization and I had a great time in Tampa. They gave me great opportunities. I'm here now because of Tampa and the rest of the organizations that gave me an opportunity.
"I'm just thankful for everything."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]