Thursday, February 16, 2012
10Q/10D: What to do with Tek and Wake?
By Gordon Edes
(Editor's note: This is the eighth installment in our "10 Questions in 10 Days" series leading into the Boston Red Sox's spring training, which officially kicks off Feb. 19, when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report.)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This is not the way either one of them wants it to end. Tim Wakefield, the 45-year-old knuckleballer, wanted to become the winningest pitcher in Boston Red Sox history, passing both Cy Young and Roger Clemens.
Has Jason Varitek's time in Boston come and gone?
Jason Varitek, the soon-to-be 40-year-old catcher, wanted to play until someone tore his uniform off, a time he expected wouldn't come for at least another two or three years.
These things seldom end well, of course. Ted Williams hitting a home run in his last at-bat and leaving on his own terms happens once in the first century or so of a franchise's history.
Neither Wakefield nor Varitek are in a position to dictate the final scenes of careers that have contained an abundance of great moments for both players. Neither has received a major league offer from another club to sign as free agents. The Red Sox have offered them minor league contracts with an invitation to major league camp, but with no guarantee of a spot on the big league roster.
Neither player has yet responded publicly to the team's offers. Wakefield's agent, Barry Meister, said he had no comment Wednesday, though there were indications from club sources that Wakefield will choose to retire.
Varitek, the longtime captain of the team who remarried this winter, has not revealed his intentions, speculation about his time with the Sox coming to an end is nothing new. In 2010, Varitek took a bow before a cheering Sox crowd in what many assumed was a farewell performance, only to come back the following spring to mentor, and share time with, Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate.
This time, however, the Sox re-signed another veteran catcher, Kelly Shoppach, and with Ryan Lavarnway a catcher-in-waiting, there would appear to be no place for Varitek on the Sox. Could he still decide to come to camp? It may depend on how badly he still wants to play. He could come to camp with the idea that an injury could open a place for him, if not with the Sox then another big league club.
That would require a considerable amount of humility and grace for a player considered an integral part of both World Series championship teams.
Wakefield at least would appear to have an outside chance at a job, with the last two positions in the starting rotation not fully settled. Daniel Bard is expected to win one of those jobs, but the other would seem to be up for grabs among Alfredo Aceves and at least four other veteran pitchers, all with health questions -- Vicente Padilla, Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva and Ross Ohlendorf, who was just signed to a minor league deal.
Wakefield has 186 wins with the Red Sox, six short of the team record, and 200 wins overall. But he won just one of his last 10 starts, the bullpen failing to hold several leads, and when the Sox desperately needed someone in September to step up and pitch a big game, Wakefield gave up five or more runs in each of his last four starts while lasting five or fewer innings in three of them. The Sox appear committed to looking for better options, and without the complications a knuckleballer can bring.
Reporting date is Sunday. You can't rule out anything, especially with Varitek, but it would be a surprise to see either of them walk into camp as players.
Coming Saturday – Is there a leadership void in the Red Sox clubhouse?