|Jason Varitek not a likely candidate to replace Gary Tuck||01.30.13 at 3:06 pm ET|
There will come a time, and it may be in the near future, that former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek can commence his big league coaching career with virtually his pick of jobs. But for now, even though the Red Sox have a newly created need for a bullpen coach and catching instructor on their big league staff with the sudden retirement of Gary Tuck, it does not appear that Varitek is being considered — or even wants to be considered — for a full-time return to uniform, according to a major league source.
Varitek retired because he wanted to spend time with his family, and while the 40-year-old embraced the opportunity to return to the Sox as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington, that job seemingly represents the work-life balance that Varitek would like to maintain for now. There’s little question that a coaching future is available to him, but for the present, he’s likely to remain in his role.
That, in turn, means that the Sox must work to find a replacement for Tuck with less than two weeks before the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Given that compressed timetable, while the Sox had yet to contact candidates about interviews as of Wednesday afternoon, the team plans to select from an internal pool of candidates already within the organization.
Three stand out as fairly obvious:
— Chad Epperson spent the last two years as the Sox’ roving catching instructor, a capacity in which he’s worked with the likes of Ryan Lavarnway and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (as well as minor leaguers such as Dan Butler, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart) for years. Last year, when Tuck had to take a leave of absence for personal reasons, Epperson joined the big league staff as his fill-in. He also knows a number of the team’s homegrown pitchers, having coached or managed players like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Bard, Ryan Kalish, Felix Doubront and Daniel Nava while they were coming up through the system. Read the rest of this entry »
|John Farrell: ‘There are many, many players eager to re-write the story’ of 2012||01.25.13 at 7:48 am ET|
In the three months since, he’s gotten a strong indication from those he’s spoken with that the team is eager to get to work and make amends.
It wasn’t long ago – 2010 to be exact – that Farrell was Terry Francona‘s pitching coach, giving daily advice to the likes of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. He knows very well the tendencies of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz.
Still, he was asked Thursday at the Boston baseball writers’ annual dinner, does he know what he’s getting into?
“Yeah, and I think we have a very good roster,” Farrell said. “I like our team as it stands today. We haven’t even gotten to spring training yet. But not only the talent that Ben and the staff brought in but the people they are. From Day 1 of being named to this position and talking to players throughout the offseason, there are many, many players that are eager to re-write the story that took place a year ago, and all are looking forward to getting on the field in Fort Myers.”
“A lot of experience,” Farrell said. “A lot of great pitching experience. He and Tek being back in our organization, in roles where they can they afford and give back to the young players that are coming through the system right now, and really even at the big league level, to give advice. This is a unique place, where you have the ability of having two guys who have had the success they’ve had to have them accessible to our players. … it’s going to be an asset for all of us.”
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia takes stock of a looming milestone||09.13.12 at 1:34 pm ET|
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a team-first catcher who measures his success not in his own statistical line but instead the Red Sox‘ wins and losses. By that taken, he understands that the 2012 season has been a grave disappointment.
On a personal level, too, Saltalamacchia has his quibbles. His season has been divided into distinct and seemingly unrelated chapters. He has gone through spells in which he has been as ferocious a hitter as any on the Red Sox, and at other times, he’s struck out in staggering volume.
“I haven’t been consistent like I want to be,” said Saltalamacchia, now hitting .232 with a .293 OBP, .480 slugging mark and .773 OPS. “We’re trying to win games, so personal accomplishments go out the window, trying to do too much.”
And so Saltalamacchia could not revel in what was an extraordinary night on Wednesday. He went 3-for-3 with a double, triple and his 24th homer of the season, along with a walk. It was the first time in his career that he had three extra-base hits in the same game, and the second time in his career that he reached base every time he stepped to the plate while taking at least four plate appearances.
Moreover, the homer edged him closer to what would represent a somewhat extraordinary milestone for the catcher. With 24 homers this year, Saltalamacchia now is within two of the franchise record for homers in a season by a catcher. Only Carlton Fisk (who hit 26 twice, in 1973 and 1977) and Jason Varitek (who hit 25 in 2003) have gone deep more times in a catching season than Saltalamacchia — who missed the previous three games due to back spasms — has done this year.
And so as much as he is inclined to downplay personal accomplishments, Saltalamacchia cannot help but take some pride in the fact that he is enjoying such select company. After all, Fisk is a Hall of Famer and Varitek is someone whom Saltalamacchia reveres as the embodiment of catching excellence.
“I think it would be awesome. You look back at Tek’s legacy, Fisk’s legacy — Fisk was a good hitting catcher, and Tek won two World Series, four or five no-hitters. To me, stuff like that is more an accomplishment for catchers rather than the home runs, but when you’re able to break records like that, you’re excited,” said Saltalamacchia. “It would be a cool accomplishment. I’d be excited. There are not too many times in your career when you get to accomplish certain milestones and break records. At any point, if you’re able to do that, it’s great.”
|Jason Varitek: ‘Quit looking at their faults’ and ‘get behind’ Josh Beckett and Jon Lester||07.22.12 at 1:15 am ET|
The man who knows the two struggling Red Sox pitchers better than anyone in the current clubhouse has a message for the fans: Show the two pitchers love – not hate – and they will respond in kind.
“I’m just a believer that they need, they need Red Sox Nation to get behind them, quit looking at the faults,” Varitek said. “What hasn’t happened, hasn’t happened [yet]. They have a chance not only at the wild card but they’re still [9 1/2 games] out [behind the Yankees]. A lot of baseball left. They make a difference, and have made a difference, both positively and negatively. If they gear that toward the positive side, they can propel this team because this is a good team.
“I don’t think they’re that far off. Start before last, Josh had a great outing. You live in the moment, OK, he hasn’t had one of those in a quite a while, if I’ve been paying attention enough. But, to do that, and to live in that [bad] moment doesn’t allow them to get behind a Josh for his next outing because you live in his next outing because you can’t do anything about the one before.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia on his struggles: ‘It’s why they call it an average’||07.18.12 at 7:52 am ET|
Jarrod Saltalamacchia knows the ugly truth.
His offensive numbers in July have not been a thing of beauty.
After going 0-for-3 Tuesday in a 7-5 loss to the White Sox, with another strikeout, he is now 4-for-40 (.100) in July with 18 strikeouts in his last 28 at-bats.
How things have changed. On June 30, he was considered an All-Star caliber catcher, batting .254 with 15 home runs and handling a pitching staff that had started to come into its own with the likes of Aaron Cook, Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales coming out of nowhere to shore up the rotation.
Now, he’s down to .229, has just two homers this month and is just trying to grind through and focus on handling the pitching staff, advice he was given by former teammate Jason Varitek, who went through many of the same battles at the plate while trying to do the tougher job of catching.
“It’s one of those things, it’s why they call it an average,” Saltalamacchia said after Tuesday’s game. “It averages itself out. Right now, it’s not going too well but you know what, my job is behind the plate. So, I haven’t been contributing much at the plate but I think I’ve been doing pretty well behind the plate, and that’s what matters most, getting these pitchers through the game and anything else is a bonus.
“I’ve always felt that way anyway but seeing what Tek’s been through in his career and knowing what he’s done in his career, it felt a little better to have him say that to me. That’s just the fact of the matter, that’s what it is. I need to get these pitchers through the game.”
Sox manager Bobby Valentine did offer his insight into what has brought Saltalamacchia back to earth this month.
‘He’s just not laying off the pitch down,” Valentine said. “You know, soft and down. It’s an old catch 22, if it’s a ball, take it and if you keep telling yourself not to swing at it, you usually swing at it. It’s one of those things.
‘But he did come out early [Tuesday], had a few rounds of extra BP.’
|Jason Varitek’s 10 most memorable moments as a Red Sox||03.01.12 at 9:53 am ET|
Jason Varitek will announce his retirement from baseball on Thursday. Varitek, the longtime captain and backstop of the Red Sox, has been viewed as the heart and soul of the team by many for the better part of the last 15 years, helping the Red Sox to two World Series championships and seven postseason appearances. Varitek has accrued many personal accolades along the way, including three All-Star selections, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger.
Varitek’s lengthy career with the Red Sox meant he developed a wealth of memorable moments in his career. Following are 10 of the most unforgettable moments of Varitek’s tenure with the Red Sox.
10. The Trade – July 31, 1997
If not for a somewhat under-the-radar deadline deal in 1997, who knows what the last 15 years would have held for the Red Sox. On July 31, 1997, then-general manager Dan Duquette dealt reliever Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for starter Derek Lowe and Varitek, who, at the time, was a Triple-A backstop. Slocumb spent just two years in Seattle, going 2-9 with a 4.97 ERA before spending parts of his next two seasons with three different teams, compiling a 3-2 record and an above-4.00 ERA before his career came to an end after the 2000 season.
9. The broken elbow – June 7, 2001
In one of the lower moments of his career, Varitek suffered a broken arm in 2001 after laying out to catch a foul ball in the on-deck circle of a June game against the Tigers. Varitek had been enjoying a breakout season with the Red Sox prior to the injury. After hitting a combined .259 over his first two seasons, Varitek hit .293 in his first 51 games in 2001. Varitek was close to matching his 10 home runs from the previous season (in which he played in 139 games) with seven home runs through those first 51 games. More importantly, the team was doing well with Varitek behind the plate and struggled in his absence. The Red Sox were 30-21 with Varitek in the lineup that year. After he suffered the elbow injury, Varitek missed the remainder of the season, and the Red Sox went 52-58 without him. Read the rest of this entry »
The Red Sox watched as an icon retired Thursday. Jason Varitek spent 15 seasons with the Red Sox after Dan Duquette acquired him and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb in the “Deal of the Century,” “Tower Heist,” or whatever you want to call it that makes Seattle’s braintrust look ridiculous. If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “If Varitek never gets a hit, he’s still a great player, because his preparation makes the pitching staff better,” I’d be rich. But there must be something to it, because during his 14 full seasons with Boston:
– The Red Sox won 90+ games 10 times;
– The Red Sox made eight postseason appearances;
– The Red Sox won two World Series titles;
Say what you want, but Jason Varitek did *something* right. Prior to Varitek’s tenure:
– The Red Sox won 90+ games (or the equivalent) 10 times in the previous 49 seasons;
– The Red Sox made eight postseason appearances in the previous 80 seasons (I know, that’s unfair, but still);
– The Red Sox last won World Series titles in 1916 and 1918;
He was an All-Star three times (2003, 2005, 2008), won a Gold Glove (2005), won a Silver Slugger award (2005), and finished in the top-30 in the MVP voting three times (2003, 2004, 2005).
It’s too bad that we can’t measure everything that Varitek brought to the table using stats. But stats is what I do, and most of the accepted stats today for non-pitchers are based on hitting. For Varitek, while he did some damage to his opponents with the bat, offense wasn’t the centerpiece of his game.
Having said all that, enjoy a Varitek retrospective, Nuggetpalooza-style:
* – Varitek leads Red Sox catchers all-time in:
AB: 5,099 (1,239 more than Carlton Fisk)
Runs: 664 (37 more than Fisk)
Hits: 1,307 (210 more than Fisk)
Doubles: 306 (99 ahead of Fisk)
Home Runs: 193 (31 more than Fisk)
RBI: 757 (189 ahead of Fisk)
Walks: 614 (225 more than Fisk)
Strikeouts: 1,216 (a whopping 628 more than Fisk)
|Red Sox react to retirement of Jason Varitek||02.28.12 at 10:17 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the news spreading of the retirement of Red Sox captain Jason Varitek on Thursday, the players he leaves behind in the clubhouse began to react on Tuesday.
‘It was awesome being a part getting to play four seasons with him and being able to throw to a guy that everybody is going to remember as the captain of the Boston Red Sox. It was a good time for everybody. I hope his decision makes him and his family happy and they go with their lives and know that he was one of the greatest guys ever behind the plate.’
What he learned from Varitek:
‘How to pitch. He’s a guy that you know when you’re on the mound and you shake him off and he sort of just stares at you, you’re like, ‘OK, I won’t throw that pitch. Don’t worry about it.’ Especially being a young guy coming up and you’re already intimated by just pitching in front of 40,000 people at Fenway and then you have Jason Varitek catching you.
‘How to slow the game down, how to pitch to certain guys, how to get out of situations. He was a vocal part of my learning experience in baseball.
What he remembers about Varitek calling the no-hitter of Sept. 2, 2007 vs. Orioles:
‘A couple of times, early in the game, I shook him off a couple of times and had a couple of missiles hit and they were caught but after that, it was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to throw what he puts down.’ The game started to speed up on me a couple of times. I remember him calling timeout, running out there and telling me to take a couple of deep breaths and throw a pitch wherever, down and away, get a ground ball and get out of an inning. That’s what I’ll always remember about him, he was always the guy that could always calm you down when he things were starting to speed up.”
Did he expect Varitek to show in camp?:
‘He’s an animal. You see how every year he comes into spring training, what he looks like, how his body is a specimen. I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60. He was awesome behind [the plate] and still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball but that was his and his family’s decision.’
‘He meant a lot obviously. He helped me out a lot last year. The year before, he was trying to recover from injury so we didn’t get to spend a lot of on-field time together but still picking his brain a lot. But last year, [he] was a huge, huge help for getting my career back on track. And just the person he is, you can’t find a better person.
‘Just the way he went about his business, watching him. Wasn’t even in the clubhouse, but I could just see from across the field how people looked at him, how people respected him. You definitely look up to a guy like that.’
What Varitek did for helping him lead the Red Sox pitching staff:
‘I was definitely a little hesitant. I didn’t know how to act towards the pitchers. I always kind of looked toward him, ‘Get this meeting started, get this started.’ But he did an unbelievable job of letting those guys where I stood and where he stood. It was kind of overwhelming. I didn’t expect that, didn’t expect him to be so helpful and [tell me], ‘Hey man, this is your team.’ I said, ‘You’re the captain, it’s your team.’
“That’s the kind of person he is. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to make me feel comfortable. He always wanted to help me out, stuck up for me and I can’t thank him enough for jump-starting my career.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Friday Notes: Red Sox not thinking of carrying three catchers||02.24.12 at 2:19 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Even in the absence of Jason Varitek, there are plenty of catchers who are making a favorable impression on new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. He praised Jarrod Saltalamacchia as an emerging leader “who is trying to step right into his own,” and suggested that the catcher was swinging quite well from the right side that is usually not his strong suit. The roster features Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway and Luis Exposito, the latter of whom Valentine suggested appeared to be “trying to take a step into his time…He looks very good.”
That said, even as Valentine said that he was not ready to think about how playing time might be divided among his catchers, he did say that there was one construct he hadn’t considered to this point: Carrying three catchers on the roster.
“I think the American league affords you the opportunity to bring that extra pitcher and right now I’m thinking about carrying that person,” said Valentine. “I think the third catcher would have to be someone who plays other positions pretty well. But DH is a position.’
That said, DH is not quite as important as defensive versatility, and since Saltalamacchia, Shoppach and Lavarnway do not play defensive positions aside from catcher, that would appear to underscore the likelihood that the Sox will open the year with Saltalamacchia and Shoppach in the big leagues with Lavarnway and Exposito getting regular catching time in Pawtucket.
— Left-hander Drake Britton came into his first big league camp in excellent shape after a full offseason of workouts. While he endured a brutal struggle in 2011, going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA for High-A Salem, there were some interesting developments that could bode well for his future. First, after being limited to 75 innings in 2010 in his first full season after Tommy John surgery, he was healthy for every start of the year, taking the mound 26 times. Secondly, when he struggled to command his curveball, the Sox had him experiment with a slider late last season. He took to the pitch quickly, and the mechanics and grip of that pitch allowed him to reclaim his 12-to-6 curveball. Read the rest of this entry »
|And so it begins: Bobby Valentine on the state of the Red Sox as spring training opens||02.19.12 at 2:58 pm ET|
FORT MYERS — It is an unusual spring for the Red Sox. As they return from a 2011 season that witnessed immense promise before ending in a startling collapse that yielded tremendous on- and off-field questions as well as turnover in both the front office and manager’s office, the Red Sox are a team that starts spring training with greater-than-usual uncertainty. The shape of the roster is less settled than is typically the case, and the mindset and dynamic of the organization will also be a work in progress over the coming six weeks in Fort Myers.
“At the start of season, you have all questions,” said Valentine. “You have questions about how the team will come together. How the pitching staff will work with the catchers. How the lineup will look and work together. I’d say we have all questions and questions of good health, too.
“As far as positions, we have a vacancy at shortstop, we have a vacancy in right field. Right now, [Carl Crawford]’s health is of question for maybe Opening Day anyway ‘ for opening day of Spring Training. We’ll deal with left field. You know a couple of spots in our starting rotation and our bullpen has open spots also. If you mean just the personnel, those are the questions that need answers. The general idea of all the things coming together need to be answered.’
Here are some of the questions that Valentine addressed on Sunday morning:
On what he think the team needs to do in the wake of its historic collapse in 2011: Read the rest of this entry »
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