Boston Red Sox: Jason Varitek

Varitek eager to learn on the job

September, 28, 2012
Newly appointed Red Sox special assistant Jason Varitek on Friday reflected on his new role with the team, even as he admitted his biggest job will be learning different facets of the organization.

"It's a huge gray area where I'm trying to learn as much as I can," Varitek said on a conference call with reporters. "If I can offer some help in some way, then I want to be able to do it."

He didn’t get into many specifics on what his job will entail, though the former captain did say he would be working with minor league catchers.

“I’m going be involved in a lot of different areas, learn lot of different things, from meetings to player development things along those lines,” Varitek said.

As for whether he could envision himself as manager of the club, as some have suggested, Varitek hedged.

“I’m not in a position to make that a yes or a no at this point," he said.

Why was he interested in sticking with the team for which he spent 15 seasons behind the plate?

“I’m interested because I want to see this organization do well,” he said.

He added:

“It’s upsetting, more so for the organization, the fan base, what everyone has grown to expect in place like that. The ultimate goal is to get back to that same winning tradition.”

Sox name Varitek special assistant to GM

September, 27, 2012
BOSTON (AP) -- The Red Sox have named Jason Varitek a special assistant to the general manager.

The catcher announced his retirement on March 1 after 15 seasons with the team following a trade from the Seattle Mariners.

"Jason was one of the most respected players of his era and will be a key voice as we move forward," general manager Ben Cherington said Thursday. "He will be involved in a number of areas including major league personnel decisions, evaluations, and mentorship and instruction of young players."

At Wednesday night's home finale, Varitek was among players honored as members of the "All Fenway Park Team" during a pregame ceremony that capped a year of celebrations for the ballpark's 100th anniversary. He was named the second-string catcher behind Carlton Fisk.

Varitek served as Red Sox captain from Dec. 24, 2004, until his retirement.

Sox honor Varitek in pregame ceremony

July, 21, 2012
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox will honor former catcher and captain Jason Varitek in a pregame ceremony Saturday night at Fenway Park.

Varitek announced his retirement March 1 at the Red Sox's spring training facility. On Saturday afternoon, his former teammates talked about his legacy Saturday afternoon in the Red Sox clubhouse.

"Every time he took the field, he would give you everything he had. He was the kind of teammate who had your back. He was the nicest guy ever, a great human being," said Red Sox DH David Ortiz.

Varitek was a key member of the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams and ranks as the all-time leader in games caught (1,488) for the Red Sox.

Jason Varitek in his own words

July, 21, 2012

When Jason Varitek received his captain's jersey upon re-signing with the Red Sox on Christmas Eve after the 2004 World Series title, he said, "I'm extremely honored right now. ... It's something I'll wear proudly."

He truly recognized his connection with Boston fans that day, saying, "Being a Red Sox in this city just pulls a lot out of me because I think a lot of my values and a lot of the fans' values and a lot of guys that play here have the same values. They like to get dirty; fans like us to get dirty. We want to play hard and leave what we have on the field, and that's what they demand out of you here."

When Varitek retired in March at Fenway South, it was a decidedly more somber occasion, but he never lost sight of how special it was for him to play his entire major league career in Boston.

"After months of deliberating what to do, I decided that it was best for me, and my family, that I retire -- that I retire a Red Sox," he said.

As tough as the decision was, Varitek seemed to be at peace with it.

"As I walk away from this game, I can look at the man in the mirror and be proud that I gave everything I could to this game, this organization, my teammates.

"And once again I just want to say thanks."

Gordon Edes pays tribute to Tek

July, 21, 2012
PM ET's Gordon Edes voices the video essay above, which originally ran on March 1, when Jason Varitek announced his retirement at spring training. With the Sox set to honor Varitek with a "Thanks, Tek Day" tonight at Fenway Park, we're rolling it back out in homage of Boston's longtime captain. Here's the text of Gordon's recut essay:

The catcher, the great New Yorker essayist Roger Angell once wrote, "has more equipment and more attributes than players at the other positions. He must be large, brave, intelligent, alert, stolid, foresighted, resilient, fatherly, quick, efficient, intuitive, and impregnable."

For 14 seasons, Jason Varitek was all of these things and more for the Boston Red Sox. He was a rock behind the plate, a mentor and muse to Red Sox pitchers, an inspiration to teammates for his willingness to play through injuries, many of which were never mentioned outside the trainers’ room.

Just as Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson helped to define the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry for one generation of baseball fans, so, too, did Jason Varitek and Jorge Posada for this one. An enduring image of the 2004 season, the year the Red Sox finally won a World Series after 86 years, is Jason Varitek thrusting his oversized catcher’s mitt into the face of Alex Rodriguez.

No Red Sox catcher played in more games than the switch-hitting Varitek. No Red Sox catcher had more hits, more home runs, more RBIs, more runs than Varitek.

But the numbers on his baseball card can never define the value of Varitek to the Red Sox. His own performance, especially at the plate, he always said, was secondary to what he was able to do for his pitching staff.

His game preparation was second to none, a large binder on his lap before every game, page after page of data on that night’s opponent. He caught four no-hitters, more than any other catcher in history. He worked seamlessly with such great pitchers as Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett, all of whom swore by him. He helped to nurture young pitchers, too, like Derek Lowe and Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

It was an honor, David Ortiz said, to be his teammate.

Varitek's career by the numbers

July, 21, 2012

With the Red Sox set to honor longtime captain Jason Varitek with a "Thanks, Tek Day" at Fenway Park on Saturday, we take a look at some of the key numbers associated with his distinguished tenure in Boston.

15 -- Tek's career spanned 15 seasons with the Red Sox. Only Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice had longer stints in Boston without playing for another team.

86 -- Varitek and the Sox won the World Series in 2004, ending an 86-year title drought. He became a free agent afterward, but re-signed with Boston was named the team's first captain since Rice.

2 -- The Red Sox won a second title in 2007 thanks in part to the play of Varitek, who was a three-time All-Star. In 2005, the catcher won his only Gold Glove and his only Silver Slugger Award.

BOSTON -- Jon Lester, who is starting the series finale against the Yankees on Sunday night, will have an extended break since Valentine decided the southpaw would not start again until July 16, when the Red Sox host the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park.

Later that week, the Sox will have a "Thanks, Tek Day" on July 21 against the Toronto Blue Jays to honor longtime Sox catcher and captain Jason Varitek, who retired on March 1 after 15 seasons in Boston. The ceremony is slated to start around 6:30 p.m. ahead of the 7:10 scheduled first pitch.

Varitek press conference set for Thursday

February, 29, 2012
As expected, the Boston Red Sox announced Wednesday that Jason Varitek will hold a press conference Thursday to announce his retirement. The press conference will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at JetBlue Park at Fenway South.

Girardi has praise for Varitek

February, 28, 2012
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The big news around the clubhouse on Tuesday morning at JetBlue Park at Fenway South was the pending retirement of veteran catcher Jason Varitek.

Red Sox players spoke glowingly of their now former teammate, as did new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

About two hours north on Interstate 75 in Tampa, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi also discussed Varitek’s career.

“He was a big part of their club, the way he ran that pitching staff and being a switch hitter that produced offensively,” Girardi told reporters. “I thought he was a big part of their club, just like Jorge [Posada] was. The unfortunate thing is, when you have great players like that, the unfortunate thing is they get older. You can’t keep them 25, 26 their whole career because we all love having them around.”

When asked to describe Varitek as a catcher, Girardi said: “Outstanding. Very smart back there. Good defensive catcher. Really knew how to handle a pitching staff.”

Photos: Varitek through the years

February, 28, 2012
A look back at Jason Varitek's career in photos:

Alex RodriguezJim Rogash/WireImageAny photo retrospective of Jason Varitek's career in Boston has to start with him shoving his mitt in Alex Rodriguez's face to spark a 2004 brawl.

Jason VaritekJed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesVaritek celebrates with Keith Foulke after the Red Sox snapped their 86-year World Series title drought in 2004.

Jason VaritekAP Photo/Winslow TownsonWith a new 'C' on his shirt and a new contract in his pocket, Varitek holds his new jewelry at the 2004 ring ceremony.

Jason Varitek and Jonathan PapelbonAP Photo/Stephan Savoia'Tek' gets ready to jump in the arms of Jonathan Papelbon after the Red Sox beat the Indians in Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS.

Jason Varitek and George BushAP Photo/Haraz N. GhanbariCaptain Varitek presents President Bush with an autographed jersey at the White House ceremony honoring the 2007 champs.

(Read full post)

Source: Varitek to announce retirement

February, 27, 2012
Jason Varitek, the longest tenured member of the Red Sox and catcher of two World Series-winning teams, will announce his retirement on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla., a major league source confirmed.

Varitek has been offered a position within the organization, but it is unclear whether he will accept it, the source said.

Varitek's decision to retire was first reported by the Boston Globe.

Varitek, who turns 40 on April 11, was offered a minor league contract and an invitation to big-league camp by the Red Sox but has not been at the team's training facility. He has been with the Red Sox since his trade from Seattle in 1997.

Varitek last season signaled a desire to continue playing for at least a few more years, and fellow catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said earlier this spring that Varitek has been catching, throwing and hitting all winter.

But Varitek, a free agent who served as the Red Sox captain, has not been offered a big-league job by another club.

The Red Sox signed veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach this offseason and also have prospect Ryan Lavarnway, who made a brief appearance in Boston last season, waiting in the wings.

Only Tim Wakefield had been with the Red Sox longer than Varitek, and Wakefield, 45, announced his retirement earlier this month.

Source: Varitek to 'decide soon'

February, 19, 2012
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jason Varitek, who was offered a minor-league contract and an invitation to big-league camp by the Boston Red Sox, was absent Sunday on the reporting date for the team's pitchers and catchers, and a source close to the longtime Boston catcher said he will "decide soon" whether he intends to continue his big-league career.

"I haven't heard that we should get his uniform ready," manager Bobby Valentine said when asked whether Varitek would be coming to camp.

Varitek, who turns 40 on April 11, has been with the Red Sox since his trade from Seattle in 1997. Only Tim Wakefield has been with the club longer, and Wakefield, 45, announced his retirement on Friday. Varitek last season signaled a desire to continue playing for at least a few more years, and fellow catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said that Varitek has been catching, throwing and hitting all winter.

But Varitek, a free agent who served as the Red Sox captain, has not been offered a big-league job by another club, and indications are that retirement may be the only course open to him unless he's willing to accept a minor-league deal.

The Red Sox signed veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach this offseason and also have prospect Ryan Lavarnway, who made a brief appearance in Boston last season, waiting in the wings.

Both Josh Beckett and Jon Lester expressed their regret that Varitek likely will not be back.

"I don't think you're going to find anybody in there that's played with him that's not going to say they're going to miss him," said Beckett, who has had Varitek behind the plate in 139 of the games he's pitched, far more than any other catcher (Paul Lo Duca caught 35 of his games in Florida).

"If Tek doesn't come back, he's going to be missed, severely. Both in the clubhouse and on the field. For me, I won't say especially, but for me, for sure.

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X-rays negative on Saltalamacchia

September, 26, 2011
BALTIMORE -- X-rays on the shoulder and collarbone of Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were negative and he hopes to play on Tuesday.

Saltalamacchia was hit just below the collarbone on his right side by a foul tip off the bat of Orioles’ Adam Jones in the bottom of the eighth inning. Saltalamacchia dropped to the ground in obvious pain and was removed from the game, which the Red Sox lost 6-3, dropping them into a tie in the AL wild-card race with the Tampa Bay Rays.

After the game Saltalamacchia said the loss was worse than his injury.

“It kind of missed everything. It didn’t hit the chest protector and hit me around the collarbone. Thankfully the X-rays are negative and I’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” he said.

Saltalamacchia said he’ll come to the ballpark early on Tuesday to receive treatment and hopefully will feel OK to play.

“It’s sore right now,” he said. “Hopefully it gets better over night and I’ll come back tomorrow.”

In 2009, while he was playing for the Texas Rangers, Saltalamacchia was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and had surgery to remove an extra rib from his right side. The golf-sized lump from the foul tip on Monday was right where the scar is from that surgery.

Saltalamacchia was a last-minute addition to the lineup after fellow catcher Jason Varitek was scratched due to a sore right knee. The captain was hit by a pitch in the nightcap of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Yankees in New York. He attempted to run and stretch out prior to catching Red Sox starter Josh Beckett’s pregame warmup in the bullpen, but it was obvious Varitek could not play.

“We went through everything just to try to get loose out there,” Varitek said.

Because of Saltalamacchia’s uncertain availability for Tuesday’s game, Varitek said he would prepare to play if needed.

“Let’s just get to tomorrow,” Varitek said.

"Ask the captain" revisited

September, 21, 2011
BOSTON -- In a column I wrote posted Wednesday, I described how Jonathan Papelbon and Josh Reddick discussed their roles in Tuesday's 7-5 Red Sox loss, and then wrote that not everyone was interested in discussing their role in the defeat, citing outfielder Carl Crawford, who had declined to speak with, or ducked, reporters for the last several days.

"I don't know why you're standing here while I dress,'' I quoted Crawford as saying while several reporters, including yours truly, hovered nearby, "because when I'm dressed I'm leaving.''

I also wrote that Crawford said, "Go ask the captain,'' directing reporters to Jason Varitek, who had not played in Tuesday night's game.

That's all I wrote about it. Did I find the comment odd? Yes. Did I think it reflected an unwillingness to answer questions? (I wanted to ask him about the neck spasms that had caused him to miss Monday's doubleheader.) Yes, and I thought it worth mentioning on a night that Papelbon and Reddick were very professional. What else did I think it meant? Nothing. I took his comment at face value, that if we reporters wanted to talk to somebody, go talk to the captain. Basically, a throwaway line.

Was it delivered with anger? No. I have never seen Crawford angry in the clubhouse. Was he speaking directly to me? Not the "captain" line. I was standing just a few feet in front of him, but he said it in response to something said by another reporter. I don't know exactly what the reporter said, but I knew it was in the context of asking Crawford to talk.

And then I read Wednesday afternoon a blog entry written by reporter John Tomase of the Boston Herald that stated the remark had become "a referendum on Crawford's relationship with Jason Varitek.''

The Herald entry, in its "Clubhouse Insider," continued: "Had Varitek called him out for missing Monday’s doubleheader with a sore neck? Did he think he should have been in the lineup? Were the two at odds?''

Those questions were posed to Varitek, who reacted "incredulously," then walked over to Crawford's locker, where they had this exchange, according to Tomase:

“This guy just asked me if I said something to you the day you didn’t play,” Varitek said. “I said, 'What the (bleep) are you talking about?' I’ve done nothing but have your back since Day 1. I’ll say that in front of him, I’ll say it in front of you."

Varitek and Crawford exchanged fist bumps. "You know what the deal is," Crawford said.

Here's what surprised me about that interpretation of Crawford's remark: Why would Crawford, who wasn't talking, have alerted reporters to a supposed confrontation he had with Varitek? That defies logic, in my opinion. And if I had even a modicum of suspicion that was indeed the case, wouldn't I have asked Varitek -- or someone -- about it? But I didn't approach Varitek, or anyone else, because I never for a moment suspected that was the case. And neither, to my knowledge, did anyone else who heard Crawford suggest we go ask the captain.

Varitek helps fill offensive void

August, 21, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Of all the unlikely sparks for the Red Sox offense, a Jason Varitek triple might draw the longest odds.

But there was Boston's veteran catcher, chugging around second base after splitting two outfielders with a drive into the right-center-field gap. The triple, Varitek's first since 2007, broke a scoreless tie in Boston's 6-1 victory Sunday at Kansas City, prompting some postgame commemoration in the Red Sox clubhouse.

"A Varitek triple," center fielder Darnell McDonald said. "We've got to take a picture of that."

[+] EnlargeDarnell McDonald
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerAfter Sunday's win, Darnell McDonald salutes Jason Varitek, whose triple helped spark the Sox. McDonald contributed three hits, including a homer.
The Red Sox can't count on a Varitek triple every day -- or every year, for that matter -- but it's the kind of spark Boston could use with several of its big bats on the shelf.

Injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis have forced the Red Sox to become resourceful, but they still managed to take three of four games against the Royals and stay within a half-game of the Yankees in the American League East.

"It's nice to know that when those guys are out, you have other guys to fill in and do a good job," pitcher Jon Lester said.

Lester gave Boston a strong start, limiting the Royals to one run and three hits in six innings for his 13th win. His command wavered at times, with four walks padding his pitch count, but the Royals didn't record a hit until the fourth inning and didn't mount a serious threat until the seventh.

"He put up a lot of zeroes," manager Terry Francona said.

Equally important were three innings of scoreless relief from Daniel Bard and Dan Wheeler, especially after Boston's bullpen imploded during an eight-run inning the night before.

The Red Sox called on Bard after Lester worked into a seventh-inning jam. Royals rookie Johnny Giavotella opened the inning with a triple, followed by a walk to Salvador Perez and an RBI single from Mike Moustakas that trimmed Boston's lead to 3-1.

Bard entered the game and struck out shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was trying to advance the runners with a bunt. He then got Alex Gordon on a liner to center and induced a ground ball from Melky Cabrera to end the inning.

"My job is to maintain the lead," said Bard, who lowered his ERA to 2.10 with two perfect innings. "The easiest way to do that is to strike a guy out and get a ground ball.

"I knew [Escobar] was going to be trying to bunt. He's probably one of the best bunters in the league. I got lucky with him fouling those two balls off. From there, you're pitching for the strikeout in that situation."

Boston's bats needed time to get rolling against Royals rookie Danny Duffy (3-8), who allowed two runs in six innings.

Varitek's triple broke a scoreless tie in the fifth, scoring Jed Lowrie with two outs.

"I told him speed never takes a day off," Francona said, asked about Varitek's rare triple. "At that point in the game, they're holding us down pretty well. I know the score ends up being spread out a little bit, but at that time, that's a huge hit."

Varitek didn't hesitate after peeking over his shoulder and seeing Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur racing toward the ball.

"It's much easier for me to score from third than it is from second," Varitek said. "So if I have the chance ..."

[+] EnlargeCarl Crawford
Ed Zurga/Getty ImagesTerry Francona is all smiles as Carl Crawford reaches the dugout after his seventh-inning home run.
McDonald, subbing in center for Ellsbury, took an 0-2 pitch from Duffy over the fence to put Boston on top 2-0 in the sixth, one of three hits for McDonald on the day.

"They'd been throwing a lot of fastballs with two strikes," McDonald said. "I was looking for it, and I was able to put a good swing on it.

"It's no secret -- the more at-bats you get, the easier it is to get your timing. The biggest focus for me is trying to swing at good pitches and put quality swings on the baseball."

Carl Crawford pushed the lead to 3-0 with his eighth home run of the season, a 416-foot blast off All-Star reliever Aaron Crow in the seventh.

With several big bats sidelined, the Red Sox would welcome a hot stretch from Crawford, who entered Sunday's game batting .251.

"That ball went a long way," Francona said. "He got his foot down on time. When he does that, it seems like everything slows down. The bat head gets where it's supposed to. That was gorgeous."

The Red Sox headed from Kansas City to Texas, where they play the first of four games Monday night. Given their makeshift lineup, they were happy to leave with a series victory.

"Taking three out of four here maybe lets us take a deep breath," Bard said. "If we had gone 1-3 here or even 2-2, we'd probably feel like we had some ground to make up heading into [the Texas series]. Now we can just go in and play our game."