Results tagged ‘ Jason Varitek ’

Varitek handling reduced role; Clinch party?

The Red Sox had a lineup on Friday night that had Jason Varitek behind the plate and Mike Lowell — despite four homers and 14 RBIs lifetime against Joba Chamberlain — on the bench.

“I really wish it was a little bit different,” Francona said. “He’s swung the bat so well off of Joba. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense to do that. We’ve got a couple of lefties the next two days. Again, and I know the numbers, it’s tremendous. I’m just trying to do something to not hurt him physically.”

Most often of late, Varitek has been the one to feel the lineup squeeze that has existed since Victor Martinez was acquired on July 31. Over that span, the Red Sox had played 50 games entering Friday, with each guy catching 25. Of course, Martinez has started at first base in nearly every instance when he wasn’t caching, while Varitek has ben relegated to the bench.

How has Varitek handled that?

“There was a reason they put that ‘C’ on his chest,” Francona said. “Even through maybe disappointment, or like you referred to it, a little bit of a reduced role, he still exhibits a lot of leadership. He’s helped Victor and he will continue to be very valuable to what we’re doing.”

Francona said that Varitek will catch two of the three games this weekend, but didn’t say if Martinez will catch Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday.

“It’s a possibility,” Francona said. “We don’t quite know yet what we’re going to do tomorrow or the next day. I don’t know if we want Tek to catch all three. We’ll see.”

In another matter, the Red Sox, as David Ortiz indicated Thursday in Kansas City, will have no reservations about spraying champagne at Yankee Stadium if they clinch the Wild Card this weekend.

Ortiz joked in KC that it would be nice not to have to get the home clubhouse at Fenway dirty.

Manager Terry Francona also indicated his team should relish the moment when they officially become one of the eight teams what will move on.

“Of course. Oh yeah. I’ve actually been asked a couple of times, hey, if this happens, are you guys going to celebrate?’ I could never quite understand that. Because we were fortunate enough to win six years ago and then a couple of years ago, why in the world would we not be happy if we’re fortunate enough to go back to the playoffs?” Francona said.

“I never did quite understand that. What we don’t need to do is choreograph anything. That’s the part I think we need to stay away from. A couple of years ago, when Pap danced out on the field after that crazy night when we were at home and Mora bunted [against the Yankees], [there was] all the craziness there that could probably only happen in New York or Boston. …  What I’d like for us to do is play good and if they’re comes a moment when we’re able to celebrate, just do whatever you feel like doing.”

Will Victor work with Beckett in postseason?

An interesting point was brought up to Red Sox manager Terry Francona before Saturday night’s game. Sean McAdam from the Boston Herald wondered if Francona might give Victor Martinez a start or two with Beckett before the season ends so they can get comfortable with each other in the event that is a tandem that will happen in the playoffs.

To be sure, Francona has not decided yet who will catch Beckett in October.

“You know, I don’t know. It’s not a bad question,” Francona said. “I don’t know.  That’s the answer. I just don’t know. It’s a legitimate question. To be honest with you, I know the numbers with ‘Tek are phenomenal and I believe in that. I also think that the night that Victor caught Beckett [in Toronto] was a crazy night.”

“I just, again, I’m very aware that when Victor catches, our lineup is more potent. Also, our goal is to win that game. That’s where we probably have to sit down at some point and think about … I just don’t know the answer. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad question. I just don’t know the answer.”

In other words, be sure to stay tuned.

Learning more about Victor

Though, in a way, it feels like Victor Martinez has been here all year, we continue to learn new things about him.

In the first game of today’s doubleheader, we learned that he can block the plate like, well, Jason Varitek.

It was the seventh inning and the Rays looked poised to take the lead when Dustin Pedroia ranged up the middle, but his hurried throw sailed wide right on Casey Kotchman. The tying run scored from third and Gabe Gross had visions of scoring from second. But Kotchman recovered the ball quickly and fired a strike to Martinez, who then blocked Gross’s path just in time by sticking his leg out, and he swiftly tagged him out. Great play as you can see right here in the video.

Catching instructor Gary Tuck was proud to see it, just like he was two weeks ago when Varitek made perhaps even a better block of home to prevent a run against the Blue Jays.

“He’s one of the best in the game [at blocking the plate],” said Red Sox catching instructor Gary Tuck. “Overall
blocking the plate, he’s very good at it. His timing is good, he takes
some chances, but he just let a runner slide straight into the plate
and steered him right off. He’s a big kid, too. That’s a hell of a play. You don’t see that much.
You see sweep tags now and bail outs. You don’t see men sticking their
legs out there. He’s sacrificing himself for the team.”


“Him and Tek a few games ago. You can go a year and a half without seeing two
plays like that and they did it within a week. That’s special.”

The play that Varitek made was on Aug. 28, so it actually wasn’t quite within a week, but Tuck’s point is still well taken

“It was a play at the plate. Casey made a good play. Good reaction, good read, gave me a good throw that I could handle it and make the play,” Martinez said.  “I always use my legs a lot to block the plate.”

Hitting for the captain

Before jumping to the conclusion that Wednesday night’s move will signify the start of a trend in which manager Terry Francona will start hitting for Jason Varitek, consider the situation.

Varitek had been 0-for-15 lifetime (including postseason) against Grant Balfour.

“I told him last night, the only situation I was going to hit for [him] was Balfour. That’s a pretty obvious one for me,” Francona said. “I told him, just give me a look if Balfour is in. If anything else, you’re hitting. The at-bat before, he actually came close to hitting a homer.”

Francona started hitting for Varitek at times during the playoffs last year, but never in the regular season. As he said at the time, “I don’t think it’s necessarily the best thing for our team to have the captain looking over his shoulder.”

With three Major League catchers on the roster and usually a potent bat or two waiting on the bench, Francona says there might be times where it makes sense to hit for Varitek.

“It’s a little different when you have more bodies,” said Francona. “Again, I think you have to be somewhat realistic when the season takes a toll on him. That’s not a shot [at Varitek]. That’s being realistic. He bears the brunt of a lot of physical [things]- he just gets beat up. But I also don’t want to run to start hitting for him because I don’t know if that always helps us maybe as much as other people do.”

Five years ago today …

There are moments that are frozen in a season, and others that are frozen for an entire era.

Think back to five years ago today. The date was July 24, 2004. The Red Sox had just come off an excruciating loss to the Yankees the night before, despite three home runs from Kevin Millar. Despite all the  hype going into the season, they were entered the day 9 and a half games behind the Yankees in the American League East. And it was a rainy day. For a while, it looked like there would be no baseball game.

One or two Yankees had reportedly started showering, because apparently, the showers were going to wash away the game. But Jason Varitek,  Millar and some other members of the team told ownership, in a manner of speaking, “Get that field ready to play. We want to play baseball today.”

The Red Sox had some fight in them. Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriguez with a breaking pitch in the third inning and the rest, you see in history. A-Rod barked at Arroyo, hollering and taunting expletives. Varitek wasn’t in the mood. He told A-Rod to get the “choice word here” to first base. Next thing you know, the superstar of the Yankees and the captain of the Red Sox were jaw to jaw. Arms flailing toward each other. Varitek literally lifted A-Rod off the ground with his glove, and then, a melee ensued.

Still though, the Yankes took a 9-4 lead on the Sox as the middle innings wore on. But the Red Sox kept chipping away. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, bam. Bill Mueller hit a walkoff homer off Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox had planted a seed in the minds of the Yankees, their bullies for all those years.

By the end of October, they had turned the tables on the Yankees from 3-0 down in the ALCS and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.

Varitek’s mitt in A-Rod’s face was simply a sign that the Red Sox weren’t going to take it anymore. It is one of those moments that won’t be forgotten. And now it is five years later, and the Yankees — though they now lead the AL East — are still trying to even the score.

Sore or not, Varitek in the lineup

The only thing Jason Varitek likes talking about less than his hitting are whatever injuries might be bothering him at a given time. The captain, uncharacteristically, left Nationals Park following Tuesday’s game without speaking to the media. This is probably because he knew the topic of his sore left shoulder would come up.

Multiple times during the game, NESN cameras caught Red Sox trainer Paul Lessard working on Varitek’s shoulder. After the game, once fully showered and dressed, Varitek went back into the trainers room to have additional treatment or consultation.

All manager Terry Francona would reveal on his weekly radio appearance this afternoon on WEEI is that Varitek is, “A little beat up.”

That said, the captain is in the lineup tonight, batting sixth. Though Varitek wouldn’t use it as an excuse, you wonder how much the ailment has had to do with his bat going quiet in June.

After clubbing his ninth and 10th homers in a win over Minnesota on May 28, Varitek hasn’t gone deep since. In June, Varitek is hitting .196 with five RBIs.

I’ll update in a little bit once I get to the clubhouse to see if Tek or Tito has anything else to add on the subject. Because Varitek is intensely private about injuries, my guess is that Francona will have his back and not elaborate all that much.

More later, and be sure to keep following me on Twitter, where the
updates are frequent throughout the night at .

Sunday subs

Not your average Red Sox lineup out there today.

No Pedroia, no Ortiz, no Varitek and no Drew.

It’s just a day off for Pedroia, who has four hits in his last 38 at-bats. Varitek caught 13 innings Friday and a long night last night, so he gets a rest today. With an off-day Monday and Wake pitching Tuesday, ‘Tek actually will have three days off in a row. J.D. Drew got smoked in the right shoulder by a pitch Saturday, so he’s sore. Rocco only played half the game, so he’s fine to go to today. And Ortiz is simply a product of National League rules and a lefty on the mound.

Here is the lineup.

Lugo SS
Ellsbury CF
Youkilis 1B
Bay LF
Lowell 3B
Baldelli RF
Green 2B
Kottaras C
Beckett P

Captain Comeback

Ah, the first official workout for pitchers and catchers. Spring is officially here. At least for those of us in Florida. Anyway, Jed Lowrie and J.D. Drew were among the new faces in camp today, two days in advance of pitchers/catchers reporting date.

Jason Varitek spoke today, marking his first comments since he signed his new deal on Feb. 6.

There was a big audience for the captain:

Doubts of whether he’d be back?I wouldn’t say
there wasn’t any doubt,” Varitek said. “But there was never ever doubt in what I wanted and in
the parts of making sure that I maintained the fact that that’s where my heart
is, and that’s where I’ve always wanted to be.”

What was the winter like? “I continued to
have to do what I had to do. I had to train, get myself ready, I had to go
through those things, regardless of what was going on and realized I had to put
myself in a position to be ready to play baseball come spring.”

 More thoughts on getting through it with a resolution: “I’m just glad at
this point it’s over with. I’m ecstatic than I’m a Red Sox. I’m ecstatic with
the fact that I have the peace of mind to know that I’m going to be in this
uniform. I get closer to retiring in this uniform. Not saying that I see
retirement any time soon but it allows me that opportunity to do what’s most
important to me is to wear this “C” for this group of fans and people in this
organization, and we’ve spent a lot of time building championships.”

Did the Jan. 23 meeting with John Henry play a role in the re-signing? “I think you’d
really have to ask Mr. Henry that. I don’t think it hurt the situation. I think
it may have accelerated some things. As a player, I have an agent that does a
job for me and in this instance, I felt I needed to be involved. You look at it
this way, maybe it did help. But I really can’t answer that for sure. I just
know that finally it gets me back in this uniform and it gives me that
opportunity to retire in this uniform that much closer.”

Second guess himself? “Not really.
Ultimately I got what was important to me, which was being able to maintain
legacy and maintain the opportunity to be here and know that there was a
commitment back from this organization that I’m going to be here. That was the
most important thing to me from the get-go. I’m just happy. I’m happy that I’m
here, I’m happy that I’m a player in this organization still, and happy to have
the opportunity with what this team has coming into camp to get back to a
chance to win another championship.”

Of Rocco and Smoltz .. and a Penny for my thoughts

Finally, the 2009 Red Sox have begun to take shape with the only real ambiguity now whether Jason Varitek or someone else splits catching duties with Josh Bard.

Let’s start with the feel-good story of the day, the official news that the Red Sox have signed Rocco Baldelli, the pride of Cumberland, R.I. Well, let’s see, the Red Sox were looking for a fourth outfielder with pop in his bat and the ability to play all three OF positions. Enter Rocco, who does all those things. The difference is that Baldelli, when right, is a starting-caliber player. And given that J.D. Drew will probably miss three weeks to a month at some point during the year — no knock, J.D., that’s just who you are! — it is very valuable depth.

Obviously Baldelli’s health is an issue, but it sounds like progress has been made in determining why he was experiencing such excessive fatigue and how to combat it. If he stays on the field, this is a terrific signing. Baldelli and Theo Epstein will talk about the signing later today, prior to the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner.

Now, to John Smoltz. The veteran righty has long been one of my favorite pitchers to watch because, much like guys like Curt Schilling and David Wells, no stage is too big for him. Smoltz craves the big moment. Though the Red Sox obviously came through with a far better financial offer than the Braves, I wouldn’t be surprised if the allure of winning for a big market team had just as much to do with this highly-competitive athlete finishing his career somewhere other than Atlanta.

As for Mr. Brad Penny, if I had said a year ago or even two years ago, who would you rather have as your No. 4 starter, Penny or Burnett, I think a lot of you would have said Penny. He has always had tremendous stuff, but last year he obviously had arm problems and might have even clashed with management a little. If that was just his one down year — kind of like the one Mike Lowell had for the Marlins in 2005 — this could be one of the best signings of the winter, considering the price.

Now, Theo figures to spend his remaining weeks before Spring Training trying to find a catcher, or just keeping the old one. Personally, I hope they can keep Varitek. I think he means a lot to that team, both from a stability standpoint and with game preparation. But I do think Jason would need to come to grips with the fact that Josh Bard is going to pinch-hit for him quite a bit, and that he figures to get closer to 90 or 100 starts than the 120 he’s been accustomed to.

All for now. Talk to you in a bit. I’ll be live from the Writers Dinner tonight.


Looking Ahead

The World Series is over, and I think a lot of Red Sox fans are happy about this. Wasn’t it hard to watch that Fall Classic knowing that your team was so painfully close to being in there, and very well could have won it all?

Anyway, congratulations to the Phillies and to the Rays. They both had great seasons and should be extremely proud of what they accomplished.

I am still just blown away by the season that Brad Lidge had. There wasn’t one time all year he didn’t do his job. He converted every save opportunity from the beginning of April until the end of October. That is mighty impressive.

On to Red Sox matters. The end of the World Series means that we can start looking ahead to the winter, and what will soon be a simmering stove of player movement.

I’m not sure the Red Sox need to spend over $200 million on Mark Teixeira as great a hitter as he is. The Red Sox have a highly productive bat in Kevin Youkilis at first, and Mike Lowell — coming off hip surgery — at third. Let’s face it, because Lowell is rehabbing, you’re not going to be able to trade him. This is an uncommon injury so I don’t think many teams would take the risk. And if Lowell can get himself healthy, the Red Sox have a very productive bat in the middle of that lineup.

Pitching is always a place you can upgrade and there’s a lot to like in this year’s market. I’d start by making a furious run at Jake Peavy. This guy is a stopper, and pitching in an environment like Boston could get him to take his game to another level. The Red Sox have the chips to legitimately be in the race for a player like this, much like they were for Santana last year. And Theo Epstein and Padres GM Kevin Towers obviously have a great relationship.

I’m not big on Sabathia. He’s going to be overly expensive, so if I’m the Red Sox, I let the Yankees overspend on him.

Derek Lowe is an interesting one. We all know what he can do. We all know how much he thrives in Boston, especially in October. But what will the market be for the sinkerballer? Obviously he wants to come back  but it’s unclear how much the Red Sox would spend for a player in his mid 30s, albeit one who has been exceedingly durable throughout his career.

A.J. Burnett? I’d be a little leery there. He’s a tease. Sure, he finally had a great year and it was in a contract year. Not sure he could keep that up over the course of a long-term deal.

Catcher is the most intriguing part of this winter. It is hard to fathom that the Red Sox could be without Jason Varitek when pitchers and catchers report in February. As Kevin Youkilis said after Game 7,
“If I walk into Spring Training and don’t see Jason Varitek, it will be a day that will be very eye-opening and very sad.”

I’m with Youk on this one. I know Varitek was beyond terrible offensively this season. Could it be, however, that it was nothing more than a player putting too much pressure on himself in a contract year, not to mention the fact that he was going through a divorce? The guy is human. Both these things could have played an impact. If I’m the Red Sox, I try real hard to get Varitek signed for two years and hope that it’s enough. There’s just not a lot of catching out there.

I think the Boston offense doesn’t need a big shakeup. If you get Lowell healthy and David Ortiz close to back to what he was, those are two big additions to your lineup right there. Jacoby Ellsbury will probably get better and so, too, could Jed Lowrie.

What would all of you like to happen this offseason?