FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jason Varitek, whose celebratory hugs with battery-mates Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon are indelibly linked to the only two world championships the Red Sox have won since 2001, will announce his retirement from baseball Thursday after 15 seasons with the club, a source confirmed.
A handful of catchers in recent baseball history -- including Carlton Fisk, Pudge Rodriguez and Bob Boone -- continued to play the game's most demanding position into their 40s. Varitek will fall a few weeks short of that milestone.
Varitek, who turns 40 in April and who served as Red Sox captain from 2005 through last season, had some interest shown to him by other clubs over the winter, but at his age, with declining production in recent seasons, couldn't envision finishing his career with a team other than the Red Sox.
The Sox had conveyed to Varitek over the winter that he could come to camp as a non-roster invitee, but told him there were no guarantees. The club's signing of free agent Kelly Shoppach during the off-season effectively closed the door for Varitek.
Jarrod Salatalamacchia, who took over as the team's No. 1 catcher last season, will continue in that role this season. Ryan Lavarnway, who has tremendous offensive upside but needs additional experience behind the plate at Pawtucket, is also considered to have a bright future and catching prospect Blake Swihart, drafted in the first round last summer, is regarded by some as the top position player in the team's minor league system.
Varitek will retire as the franchise leader in games caught. His 15 seasons with the Red Sox (1997-2001) are eclipsed only by Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19) and Jim Rice (16) when it comes to those who played their entire major league career with the Red Sox.
He hit .256 with 193 homers and 757 RBI. He won a Gold Glove and was chosen to three All-Star teams. He finishes his career ranked in the all-time Top 10 in several franchise categories, including games played, plate appearances, doubles and extra-base hits.
PROFILE: Jason Varitek, year-by-year
Varitek was obtained at the 1997 trade deadline from Seattle, along with Derek Lowe, for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb, surely one of the most lopsided deals in Red Sox history.
In addition to serving as the team's first captain since Jim Rice, Varitek's fight with the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez in the middle of the 2004 season seemed to represent a turning point in Red Sox history, a sign that the Sox were no longer intimidated by the Yankees and their past dominance
of the Sox.
Pitchers continually praised him for his preparation and knowledge of opposing hitters, none more so than Curt Schilling.
He proved remarkably durable in his career. From 1999 until 2009, he played in 100 or more games in every season but one and, over his 15-year career, was placed on the disabled list just twice -- once with a broken elbow and again, in 2010, with a broken foot.
He caught four no-hitters (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz), the most for any catcher in baseball history. He was the only player who played in the Little League World Series, the College World Series, the Olympic Games, the World Basbeall Classic and the World Series.
As recently as 2009, Varitek supplied respectable power numbers (14 homers and 51 RBI in 364 at-bats. But his playing time dipped drastically over the last two seasons as he played just 107 games combined in 2010 and 2011.
The Red Sox traded for Victor Martinez at the trade deadline in 2009 and he became the principal catcher over the final two months of that season and again in 2010.
Varitek's role was further diminished in 2010 when Saltalamacchia, after a brutal first month, seized the No. 1 catcher's role.
The Boston Globe was the first to report news of Varitek's retirement.