Knuckle down

Famed catcher/comedian/announcer Bob Uecker always had the best explanation of how to catch a knuckleball: "You let it go past you, you wait until it stops rolling, and then you pick it up."

Meet Kevin Cash, a 30-year-old journeyman who has become the personal catcher for Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, one of baseball's last remaining knuckleballers.

"You can't catch a knuckleball like you do other pitches, where you know where it is going and you can put your glove there and wait for the ball," Cash told the Sporting News. "With a knuckleball, no one knows where it's going. You have to wait on it. You wait to move the glove at the last second or else it's going by you."

On his off-days, Cash practices by trying to catch a simulated knuckleball - a rag ball, made of a sticky, carpet-like material that comes out of a pitching machine.

Slams yes, cycles no

Mike Lowell hit one of Boston's two grand slams Thursday night against Kansas City.

But he assured reporters afterward that he probably will never hit for the cycle. With a single, double and homer, he came within one hit of the cycle for the seventh time as a member of the Red Sox, and 14th time in his career.

"I can't hit a triple," the third baseman said in the Boston Globe. "I need two outfielders to run into each other, and they both have to be on stretchers as the third outfielder throws home while I'm sliding head-first into third."

Home run historian David Vincent told the Globe that two grand slams by the same team in the same game has happened only 72 times since 1876. Over that identical time period, there have been 245 no-hitters.

Watch that dirt

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi sat out last night after Major League Baseball suspended him one game for kicking dirt on home-plate umpire Chris Guccione during an argument about a third strike called against Jason Giambi.

Girardi said he was "shocked" at the suspension.

"Photos [show] the dirt clearly goes on his shoe, but that was not my intent," Girardi said before last night's game against Seattle. "You're not allowed to make contact with them, so maybe that's considered contact.

"I think the culture of life has changed. I think respect has always been a huge thing in our world, but I think people tend to think that other people are disrespecting them more than it really happens. I think that has become a big part of our society."

Look like Jim

Quite a few locals still follow the career of Jim Thome, so we feel a need to tell them the Chicago White Sox are conducting balloting on their Web site in the Jim Thome look-alike contest.

The Web site has pictures of the four finalists. Voting extends through Tuesday. The winner gets a home replica jersey of Thome, a White Sox hat, and four tickets to a game.

Honestly, you'd probably find more Thome look-alikes in Philadelphia than in Chicago. But since the entries are closed, our vote is with Sean.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.