New catcher could impact Varitek's future

BOSTON -- Two days off crutches, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek walked into the batting cage under the Fenway stands behind the Red Sox dugout Monday afternoon, drawing closed the green curtain behind him. Varitek preferred privacy for the first swings he has taken since fracturing his right foot on June 30.

Actually, these were the first swings Varitek has taken standing upright. He had taken some hacks from his knees.

“The next 10 days or so will tell a lot,’’ Varitek said. “I’m just two days off crutches, so I’m pretty happy. When I get rid of a little bit more of this limp, I’ll be even happier.’’

Varitek said he did some walking from foul pole to foul pole a few times before he tried swinging. He also has begun doing some throwing while standing up.

“It’s a progression,’’ he said when asked what kind of weight-bearing activity he is allowed to do. “I’ve got to see how I respond to this stuff. It’s going to be a little more time, by my understanding.’’

Before he was hurt, Varitek had adjusted nicely to the role of backup catcher, batting .263 in 30 games with seven home runs and 16 RBIs while doing his usual superb job of calling games. He had also been extremely vocal in his support of Victor Martinez, especially early in the season when questions were raised about whether Daisuke Matsuzaka would be better off with Varitek behind the plate.

Even as he turned 38 this season, the Red Sox catcher this spring expressed a desire to keep playing beyond this year, perhaps for another three or four seasons. But his future with the Sox could be impacted by Boston’s acquisition of catching prospect Jarrod

Saltalamacchia. A switch-hitter like Varitek, the 25-year-old Saltalamacchia is a former first-round sandwich pick (Braves, 2003) who has long been coveted by the Red Sox.

He has been held back by injuries and a throwing problem that he believes is now under control. If so, Saltalamacchia should compete for a spot on the big-league roster next spring. Where that leaves Varitek remains to be seen, but there have been rumblings that the Sox's plans for 2011 may not include him.

“Right now I have zero idea,’’ Varitek said amiably when asked about how the trade for Saltalamacchia might affect him. “I can’t do anything but get healthy. We’ve got a lot of games to catch up on.’’

Asked if he was satisfied with the efforts the club had made to fortify the team at the trading deadline, Varitek said, “I think we’ve got pretty good personnel here. Get healthy, get our personnel together, get things settled, I like our team.

“We’ve got pretty good starting pitching, and it’s huge having Vic back in the lineup. We have to kind of solidify a lot of things, and take off from there. We’ve played much better the last few series, and we have to keep playing good baseball.’’