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Beckett wants his Tek-nichian back in 2010 10.12.09 at 5:16 pm ET
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Josh Beckett made it clear on Monday that he would like to see Jason Varitek back in a Red Sox uniform in 2010.

“He’s definitely one of those guys I’d love to see back, even if the transition starts like it started at the end of the year,” Beckett said. “I think there’s a lot of things that a lot of people can learn from him. And him being around, it’s never a bad thing. He’s so great with young guys and he knows to run a clubhouse and that’s why he wears that ‘C’ on his chest.”

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said Monday that he had yet to speak to Varitek about his role next year. The Red Sox captain has a $3 million option he can exercise for 2010 or the club could pick up his option at $5 million.

Epstein added that he Victor Martinez would likely see the majority of catching duty next year. Martinez caught all three games of the series against the Angels while Varitek did not play in the ALDS, the first time in his Red Sox career he spent the entire postseason on the bench.

“It’s obviously not anything you want to see somebody go through, and I consider Jason Varitek a dear friend of mine,” Beckett added. “It’s obviously tough to see people go through those transitions but he handled it very well.”

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The Red Sox Lineup With Martinez 10.09.09 at 6:07 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — For the second straight day, the Red Sox will feature Victor Martinez behind the plate, this time paired with starter Josh Beckett. There had been a lot of debate, of course, about whether the Sox should feature the offensively superior lineup, or whether they should put Jason Varitek behind the plate to work with Josh Beckett, given that the pitcher is still clearly (and by his own admission) more comfortable working with Varitek — after four years — than he is with Martinez — with whom he has been paired for three games.

In theory, the argument is understandable, but from a practical standpoint, the difference for the Sox with Martinez behind the plate has been undeniable. In 32 regular-season games with Martinez starting behind the dish, the Sox averaged 6.3 runs per game and went 21-11. From the time of the trade deadline through the end of the season, when Varitek started, the club went 14-14 and averaged 5.1 runs per game.

Of course, if Beckett is dominant, then 5.1 runs per game would be plenty for the Sox to position themselves to win. All the same, at least down the stretch this year, it would be difficult to argue that the Sox are not a better team with Martinez catching than with Varitek.

The Sox lineup on Friday will be the same for Game 2 as it was for Game 1:

Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Martinez, C
Youkilis, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Bay, LF
Lowell, 3B
Drew, RF
Gonzalez, SS

For more, read Rob Bradford’s “Beckett, Red Sox Need Wins, Not Sentimentality”.

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Varitek Reflects on His Role 10.07.09 at 9:12 pm ET
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jason Varitek doesn’t hide from the fact. Since the arrival of Victor Martinez, his playing time has diminished steadily, as Martinez has been entrusted with a greater and greater share of the workload, to the point where Varitek says candidly that he doesn’t know when or if he will be starting this postseason.

That represents a sea change in the Red Sox universe. Since 2003, the Sox have played in 54 postseason games, and Varitek has played in all but two of those. But he has never been in a struggle such as the one in which he finds himself, and the Sox have never had an alternative like Martinez. From June 7 through the end of the year, Varitek hit .179/.296/.292/.588.

ALCS Red Sox Rays BaseballSince the Sox acquired Martinez, Varitek’s offensive woes have been even more pronounced. Starting on Aug. 1, he is hitting .134 (worst in the majors among those with at least 100 at-bats), has a .220 OBP (third worst in the majors) and .216 slugging mark (worst in the majors). In the same span, Martinez has hit .336/.405/.507 and has been a middle of the order force.

And so, Varitek has no longer been able to assume that he will start on any given day, or with any pitcher. Martinez has become the regular receiver for Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, and has worked with Josh Beckett of late. He has also had the chance to work with Daisuke Matsuzaka. And so, Varitek is forced to adjust. He admits that the situation is novel, but he does not object.

“It’s different. It’s definitely different,” said Varitek. “You can’t really control playing time, but you can control the other parts where you contribute. It may not be by playing. It may be on the bench. You can’t really control those things, but it’s not the time of year to be selfish.”

The Sox captain said that he is still doing everything in his power to remain ready in case the Sox need him. At the same time, he is more than willing to contribute by offering Martinez any information that may prove of help.

“Vic’s been great. He’s been a huge part of our team, a huge part of our offense. He swings the bat really well, and does a really good job behind the plate,” said Varitek. “I think we have a very good relationship, first from the respect factor of playing against each other, then from working together. Sometimes, over the course of learning and talking through stuff, a word of something from Victor to me helps me or vice-versa.”

Of course, the information flow may prove one-sided. There is a decent chance that during the playoffs, Martinez will be the Sox’ everyday catcher. Varitek may be limited to spot starts or a bench role. Varitek has yet to learn what sort of role, in any, he will play. But given that he is on a Red Sox postseason roster for the 15th different series, he refuses to express any disappointment about his role.

“We’re in the postseason. I don’t know what’s disappointing about being in the postseason. Everybody in this locker room at some point has helped the team win games,” Varitek said. “Your level of how special this opportunity is goes well beyond anything personal.”

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A Farewell (To 2009?) For the Captain 10.05.09 at 3:46 am ET
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Jason Varitek’s season had its moments, foremost in the first couple of months of the season, when he every time he connected with the ball it seemed to jump as if struck by a sledgehammer. But his performance waned as the season progressed, and so when Victor Martinez brought thump back to the catching position, Varitek saw his job description narrow.

Varitek’s playing time diminished, as the Sox worked to develop a rapport between Martinez and each of the four postseason starters. But the 37-year-old, who before this season signed a one-year, $5 million deal that came with a $5 million team option and a $3 million player option for the 2010 season, never made an issue of his decreased playing time.

“Jason Varitek has had a reduced role. He’s the captain of our team,” said Francona. “There hasn’t been one instance where Tek has done anything except try to help make our team better.”

As such, Francona felt compelled to give Varitek a moment to take a bow in Sunday’s season finale. After Clay Buchholz (who was working with Martinez) left the game, Varitek entered to work the middle innings. With one out in the top of the eighth, Dusty Brown entered the contest so that Varitek could leave the field to an ovation from the Fenway crowd.

Clearly, the ovation was about more than Varitek’s .209 average, .312 OBP and .703 OPS in 2009. Varitek received a salute from the crowd for his 1,439 games with the Red Sox, for the two World Series teams on which he was the defining clubhouse presence, and a career in which he has been focused solely on the betterment of his team, even if it came at the expense of personal goals.

Varitek expressed appreciation for the treatment, even if it might him slightly sheepish.

“I get kind of embarrassed,” said Varitek. “It was kind of a blur for me. I got caught kind of off guard. … I’ve been here a long time. I definitely appreciate it.”

Of course, there is a chance that Sunday represented the final opportunity for Fenway Park to salute Varitek as a member of the Red Sox. Assuming that the Sox do not exercise their team option, it is conceivable that Varitek could decline the player option to seek a larger opportunity elsewhere, or that he could simply call it quits.

Right now, such scenarios are purely speculative. Varitek suggests that it would be inappropriate for him to discuss the 2010 season so long as his team is competing for a championship.

“That’s not a fair question to ask right now,” Varitek said of his plans for 2010. “We’ve got the playoffs to think of.”

Nonetheless, on Sunday, just in case 2009 becomes Varitek’s swan song with the Sox, it seemed an appropriate moment for the longtime backbone of the Sox to receive his due.

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Varitek vs. Victor: A Lopsided Tale of Numbers 09.26.09 at 12:30 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Since Aug. 1, when Victor Martinez joined the Red Sox, 322 major-league players have at least 75 plate appearances. The numbers produced by Jason Varitek in that time have been nothing short of horrific.

Jason Varitek, meanwhile, has the worst average (.124) among the 322 players with at least 75 plate appearances since Aug. 1. He is second to last with a .210 OBP, second to last with a .202 slugging mark and last in the majors with a .412 OPS.

Martinez, who has split time between first and catching, has been one of the best players in the game during the same time. After going 2-for-4 on Friday with a homer off of Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain, Martinez is now hitting .335 with a .403 OBP, .505 slugging mark and .908 OPS. He has been a star at the plate. He currently has a career-best 24-game hitting streak intact, and it has been all but impossible for the Sox to keep him out of the lineup.

That, of course, has not been the case with Varitek. He will not catch Daisuke Matsuzaka on Saturday, but he will be back behind the dish on Sunday to catch Paul Byrd. All the same, in the bigger picture, the Sox have not been a better team with Varitek in the lineup than they have been with Martinez behind the dish.

Varitek had a particularly dreadful night on Friday, going 0-for-4 with a pair of bad strikeouts, a double-play grounder and a foul-out to third. The Yankees also stole seven bases in as many attempts against the Red Sox captain, meaning that Varitek has now caught just 7.8 percent of attempted base stealers this year.

Varitek and Francona both pointed out that the Yankees were, by and large, running on first move with a left-hander (first Lester, then reliever Hunter Jones) on the mound. Even so, Varitek’s playing time has been slowly ebbing ever since Martinez arrived, the Sox apparently having concluded that they are typically better with the newcomer in the game.

Since Martinez joined the Sox, the team has a 31-20 record: 17-8 (.680) with Martinez as the starting catcher, 14-12 (.538) with Varitek behind the plate. The reason for the disparity, unsurprisingly, appears to be that the lineup is more powerful when Martinez is catching with Mike Lowell playing third and Kevin Youkilis playing first. On days when Varitek catches, one of those three players has to sit.

The Sox have scored an average of 6.7 runs per game when Martinez has been the starting catcher, and 5.1 runs per game in contests started by Varitek since Aug. 1.

Despite the diminished playing time, however, Francona noted that Varitek remains committed to helping the Sox win.

“There’s a reason they put that ‘C’ on his chest. Even through maybe disappointment or a reduced role, he still exhibits a lot of leadership,” said Francona. “He’s helped Victor. He’ll continue to be very valuable.”

“He’s having a hard time,” said Francona. “It’s not always easy. You do the best you can. You keep plugging away. You know he’ll do that. You just keep plugging. He takes the brunt of a long season. We’ve talked about it so much. It affects him at the plate, the amount of catching he does. It’s hard to get around that when you catch that many games.”

It is worth noting that the team’s run prevention has been better with Varitek behind the plate than Martinez. Boston has given up an average of 4.3 runs per game in games started by its captain in the last two months, versus 5.1 runs a game with Martinez catching.

For his part, Varitek — who refused to use a neck injury that he said will be “handled” in the offseason — as an excuse. Moreover, he suggests that his offensive approach has not been as bad as the results for the most part.

“I think, minus today, at times, I think I’ve had good at-bats. I had good at-bats in Baltimore, I had good at-bats in [Kansas City],” said Varitek. “Outside of today, and a couple of other times, I’ve had good at-bats. Not necessarily always results.

“I’m not going to quit on it,” he added. “I’ll continue to go out there and do the work we’ve been doing every day. Today I didn’t have as good of at-bats. I’ve got to try and stick with the process as much as I can, and help this team when I can.”

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Schilling: ‘There Are No Fakes and Frauds In October’ 09.24.09 at 11:57 am ET
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Curt Schilling visited the Dennis & Callahan Show on Thursday morning to discuss the shape of the Red Sox and the baseball landscape as the playoffs approach. Schilling discussed whether Josh Beckett or Jon Lester should start an ALDS Game 1, whether Beckett can succeed with Victor Martinez behind the plate, whether the Red Sox are better off pursuing Matt Holliday or Jason Bay this offseason, and why Alex Rodriguez has endured epic October struggles.

A full transcript of Schilling’s baseball conversation is below. For a transcript of Schilling’s decision not to run for Senate, CLICK HERE to visit the 38 Pitches blog.

To listen to the complete interview, CLICK HERE.

Would you have Lester or Beckett start Game 1? Is there a question?

I think [Beckett] already is [set in stone as the Game 1 starter]. Barring any physical issues, I think he is.

I’ve looked at clinching, because I’ve been in both cases, in two ways: clinching too early, if there is a case, of clinching too late. Clinching too early, I would be concerned about it with any other club other than this one. Given Terry and the mentality in this one, I don’t think that would have been a concern three weeks ago. Clinching too late changes screws up a lot of things. If you have to pitch into the last weekend of the season, in [2005], I had to pitch against the Yankees [on the season’s final day]. It’s still one of the biggest mistakes that was made, I did not pitch in that postseason series against the White Sox because I pitched against the Yankees, I didn’t have a chance. And I was coming back from the injury, people were wondering what I would be like, and I was like, ‘I don’t care what you’re wondering. It’s October. Give me the ball and I’ll beat somebody.’ We had to play into the last weekend. Any time you have to do that, you have two problems.

No. 1, guys don’t get a breather. And No. 2, you don’t get to start the guys you want to start when you want to start them.

Would you go pedal to the metal to win the AL East and play a lesser team than the Angels?

You clinch your spot. That’s the priority. You clinch your spot first, and then if you have a chance to manipulate your opponent over the last week or two of the season and you can do that without pushing buttons and maxing things out from a workload standpoint. But I never, ever was concerned or wrapped up personally. The only thing that changed for me from an opponent’s standpoint was who I was going to be preparing for. I knew I was going to be so thoroughly prepared, and I was going to have such a huge advantage, that I didn’t care. I just wanted to know sooner rather than later so that I’d have more time. What you see, when the calendar turns, one of the transitions in the Red Sox organization is data. They provide their players with more data and better data than any place I’ve ever been. October is the one time that everybody on the team uses it. It’s the reason there are no fakes and frauds in October.

Did you care who was catching you?

Always.

Why? You were prepared. You shook off Jason Varitek. It’s not like it cost you a no-hitter. … Actually, it did. Is it really important to Beckett? Read the rest of this entry »

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Trio of backstop prospects catching on 08.27.09 at 6:31 pm ET
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The Red Sox just may have better catching than we thought.

Since acquiring Victor Martinez on July 31, the Sox now have two All-Star catchers who figure to be under Boston’s control through the 2010 season. In addition, the team will have some decisions to make regarding George Kottaras, who was placed on the DL on August 1 with with a lower back sprain and has played his last nine games in Pawtucket. Amongst all the bodies in the system, who is the team’s catcher of the future?

Mark Wagner,” says a source within the organization with what can only be perceived as the utmost confidence.

Of course, that source within the organization happens to be one Mark Wagner himself, and unfortunately for the 25-year-old, it’s not that simple. Looking at the system as a whole, Wagner isn’t the only minor-league catcher jumping off the page. In fact, he may not even be Boston’s catching prospect. With both Double A Portland’s Luis Exposito and High A Salem’s Tim Federowicz also making great strides, the spot’s future is uncertain to say the least.

In short, Wagner brings to the table great game-calling ability, a plus pop time, a streaky bat, and outstanding confidence. Exposito brings size, outstanding defensive abilities, and a bat that has hit for average (.290 over the last two seasons). Additionally, Exposito brings a level of professionalism uncharacteristic of someone who was suspended for nearly all of the ’07 season for attitude problems. Federowicz, like Wagner, calls an excellent game, has a gun for an arm and has surprised Boston with offensive growth. Read the rest of this entry »

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