BOSTON (AP) – Doug Mirabelli got a police escort from the airport, changed into his uniform in a car and made it to Fenway Park just in time to fill his unique role as personal catcher to knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

The Boston Red Sox reacquired Mirabelli from the San Diego Padres on Monday and he arrived back at Fenway 13 minutes before the night game against the New York Yankees.

Jason Varitek was removed from the starting lineup and Mirabelli donned his catching gear.

From Logan Airport to his crouch behind home plate in just 25 minutes, Mirabelli got a standing ovation from Red Sox fans who hoped he could do better than Josh Bard, who had 10 passed balls in Wakefield’s four previous starts this season.

The Red Sox sent Bard, minor league reliever Cla Meredith and either cash or another player to San Diego. Boston originally traded Mirabelli to San Diego last Dec. 7 for second baseman Mark Loretta but Mirabelli ended up backing up Mike Piazza along with Rob Bowen.

Mirabelli spent four years with the Red Sox, primarily handling Wakefield’s turn in the rotation.

“It was a chance for us to bring back the one guy who’s probably most qualified to catch Tim Wakefield, put him in a situation to succeed,” Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. “Josh was working really hard and going about it in a very professional way.

“But we just didn’t necessarily have the luxury of time waiting to find out if things would get better so we made this move now while Doug was available at a reasonable cost.”

In the top of the third inning, Mirabelli took a pitch out and threw out Bubba Crosby trying to steal second.

The Red Sox obtained Bard in the offseason in a deal that also brought center fielder Coco Crisp to the Red Sox to replace Johnny Damon, who left as a free agent for the Yankees.

Damon’s return got most of the attention Monday night as he was booed for 30 seconds when he came to bat in the first inning before the cheers increased.

“I think Doug coming back is a bigger story because the trade at first really took him by surprise,” Damon said. “The fact that he’s back, I think, it’s a bigger story because he and Wakefield definitely work very well together.”

Mirabelli was batting .182 with no RBIs in 22 at bats at San Diego. Bard hit .278 in seven games with the Red Sox. Meredith, a 22-year-old right-hander had no record and a 5.27 ERA in eight relief appearances at Triple-A Pawtucket. He pitched in three games with Boston last year.

AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen in Boston and Bernie Wilson in San Diego contributed to this story.

AP-ES-05-01-06 2012EDT