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Jason Varitek proves he still the most trusted on the Red Sox
Posted By Mike Petraglia On September 1, 2011 @ 1:09 am In General | 4 Comments
Captain Jason Varitek is proving to be somewhat of an ageless wonder for the Red Sox. And certainly, he among the most trusted on the team. Just ask Josh Beckett, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or the manager Terry Francona.
He proved to be both ageless and trusted on Wednesday night as he came up with a key double on a hit-and-run play to tie the game after the Yankees had the momentum with a four-run sixth. His execution of that play in the bottom of the sixth with Josh Reddick at first base – called for by Francona – was a great example of what Varitek is all about.
Just get the job done.
“The hit-and-run [double], it’s perfect, it goes down the line, climbs up the wall, goes past the outfielder, and Red is running like crazy and that was a big play in the game,” Francona said. “Then the home run. We’ve gotten a lot of offense from our catching. It’s really been terrific. It’s come from two guys but still we’re getting the offense.”
Phil Hughes, after walking Reddick, was looking to get Varitek off-balance, not hard to do since the Red Sox catcher tends to fly open. Well, fly open he did, getting his front foot up and down before the late-breaking curveball even arrived at the plate.
But even though his timing was off, Varitek didn’t miss a beat – keeping his bat back while his legs and backside were already gone, and driving a double down the left field line and off the top of the sidewall, scoring Reddick. The pool cue shot knotted the game, 5-5.
“It’s just the other things, like today, it was a hit-and-run and trying to get a guy over,” said Varitek, who added a two-run homer in the eighth for insurance. “You’re trying to do the little things and I was able to accomplish both and one ball happens to go out of the park. We had a hit-and-run, it’s something we practice. Tito does a lot with me, and has over the years. It’s one of the first this year but it came at the right time.”
Varitek now has 10 home runs to go with his 32 RBIs and .240 average. At 39 years, 142 days, he became the oldest Red Sox player to homer since Ellis Burks at 39/210 on April 8, 2004. Varitek and Saltalamacchia also became the first pair of Red Sox catchers with double figures in homers since Bob Tillman (14) and Jim Pagliaroni (11) in 1962.
Not so long ago – like at the end of April – the rumblings were there. This was finally it for the 39-year-old Varitek. His numbers had slipped and he couldn’t even get off the good start that he did in 2010, when he batted .323 in April, with four homers.
“You learn every year,” Varitek said. “You learn different roles or what people are going through. When people are going through tough times, I still have to go about my job the same way, support my teammates when I’m not playing, be there for the staff when I am. Be there for Salty.
“So, I don’t really see things change but I’ve changed in my communication over time, but that’s where I’m playing or not playing.”
This April was much different. Varitek was batting .111, with just four hits in his first 36 at-bats this season. But he came alive and batted .333 in May to salvage his confidence.
“I had real good start last year where we made some adjustments mechanically over the last two years,” Varitek said. “We work every day. I’ve always had power numbers. I’ve always hit doubles and I’ll hit a few home runs but that’s just part of what it goes in.”
Is he fresher this year?
“Last year, I was real fresh because I didn’t play for three months,” Varitek said of the situation with Victor Martinez, who caught most of the games, leaving little time for Varitek behind the plate. “You go in waves. For a little stint, I hit a wall. But you can’t control that and you still have to do your other job but everybody does. How that is going to work out, it still means Salty is going to play the majority of the time and I’m just going to fill in.”
And while what a team does in a particular player’s start is usually dangerous ground to build any point about a player’s value to a team, the Red Sox on Wednesday improved to a remarkable 39-14 in games the captain starts this season.
“Of course, you want to contribute but I’ve played the game long enough to know what is the important part of the thing that I do.”
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