With nothing really to play for, the 2010 PawSox limped into the finish line, getting swept in Scranton and splitting with Syracuse to end a forgettable season. The one remarkable fact about the PawSox this year was the seemingly endless stream of Major League rehabbers that graced McCoy Stadium with their presence. The final one of the year was catcher Jason Varitek. The Red Sox captain played in the Syracuse series, catching one game and DH-ing in the finale. I had the chance to spend some “quiet time” with the three time American League All Star.
Varitek sustained a broken foot, but was happy to be behind the plate and playing again. “I felt good. I was anxious to get back out there on the field. The body responded well and I’m ready to get after it again.” Varitek was tested early by the Chiefs and their widely unpopular manager, Trent Jewett. The consensus was that Jewett would try to “show up” Varitek in some way. In the first inning, he had Michael Martinez attempt a stolen base and Varitek gunned him down by at least ten feet. “We’ve done a lot to try to maintain arm strength from the time I was in a boot until now, so (Fabio) Castro gave me a chance and I made a good accurate throw.” Varitek adds that he is ready to return to Boston. “The foot’s good. I’m ready to get some at bats. Getting through the game yesterday, had a couple of balls in the dirt, a guy tried to steal, had a long inning behind the plate and got a couple of at bats. I had a little bit of everything yesterday, so it was good.”
Offensively, in two games, Varitek had two hits and a sacrifice fly that scored a run. He was somewhat satisfied. “In the grand scheme of things, I was pleased. Especially in the third at bat, fouling off pitches, I was happy, staying in the at bat. I felt good at the plate, period.
Varitek has been in the game a long time, but even he couldn’t have envisioned the nightmarish injury plagued season his team would have to endure. “It’s been a different experience for a lot of people. It’s been that way all year, not just a month. It’s given a lot of people an opportunity to play. A lot of different people had to ask extra things of themselves. Really, we are just a few one run games away from being at the top of the division. Hopefully, we can find some favor and make a final push over these final few weeks, and make a run towards it.”
Besides the injury, Tek has also had to adjust to a lesser role as a player, backing up Victor Martinez. Despite what he says, it can’t be easy. “It’s an ongoing adjustment, but it started in August of 2009. It’s still adjusting, trying to find out what’s too much work, what’s not enough when you’re used to playing every day. It’s still agrind, even when it’s not your gig 24 hours a day. Whether you feel good, bad or indifferent. You look for a different way to help when you are in here.” Varitek keeps a close eye on “his” pitchers and the catchers, as well. “I watch our guys throw from different angles, compare intent with results, provide feedback when need be, be there on the bench to support the guys. It’s very important for me to keep an eye on what’s going on, so if I do go in, I’m prepared.”
Varitek looks liike he could play linebacker for the Patriots. At age 38, he’s still in peak physical condition. “That’s one thing you can control as a player. You can’t control the results on the field, but you can take care of the preparation.”
The 18th captain of the Boston Red Sox, Varitek is still humbled to war the “C” on his chest. “It’s been a great honor. I haven’t had to do much more being the Captain, than before I was named. My biggest responsibilities have been dealing weith the pitching staff and leading by example. As I’ver gottern a little older, I’ve gotten a little more vocal and had a little more fun with it. It’s evolved and it’s an honor and I’ve been blessed to be able to stay in the same place.” Although he was a bit reluctant to name a name, he and I are on the same page as far as his potential successor as Red Sox Captain. “There’s guys. Guys like “Pedey” (Dustin Pedroia) that easily fall into that and I’m sure that thtrough the course of time, it’ll play its’ way out.”
Varitek is eagerly looking forward to 2011. He is quite motivated to keep playing. “Absolutely. I believe I’m at a spot where I can still compete at a high level and do very well.”