McAdam: Varitek's true legacy will shine through in time


McAdam: Varitek's true legacy will shine through in time

In the here-and-now, in the immediate aftermath of the instant-24-hour-news-cycle, there's a predictability to the reaction of Kelly Shoppach's arrival, and thus, Jason Varitek's expected departure.

About time! -- and that's one of the kinder responses from a fan base eager to be cleansed of everything associated with the dreadful finish to the 2011 Red Sox season.

The numbers -- and the anecdotal evidence -- will suggest that the end of Varitek's long Red Sox career was hardly some sort of noble swan song.

He hit just .221 for the season and almost one of every three at-bats concluded with a strikeout. Against righthanders, he hit just .200 for the season and in the second-half of the season, hit a paltry .176 against everybody.

The numbers only told half the story. As captain, Varitek appeared unable or unwilling to use his status to halt the team's poor play in the final month, to say nothing of the fraternity-like behavior in the clubhouse.

Argue if you will that Varitek's reduced role in recent seasons rendered him ineffectual and that he didn't carry the same authority as he did five or six seasons ago.

But Varitek also seemed powerless to reverse the slide of the team's pitching staff -- whose 7.27 ERA for the month of September epitomized the club's collapse -- when the Sox won just 7 of their final 27 games. On the final night of the season, with starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia slumping, former manager Terry Francona elected to go with rookie Ryan Lavarnway behind the plate rather than Varitek.

There's no escaping the fact that Varitek slipped -- both at the plate and behind it -- in recent seasons. In retrospect, perhaps the surprise is that he lasted through his 39th birthday in a Red Sox uniform.

But it's not fair, either, to evaluate a player solely by his twilight seasons. The fact remains that for much of his 14 full seasons with the Red Sox, beginning in 1998, Varitek was usually among the top handful of catchers in the game.

In his prime, he was dependable, durable -- exactly two trips to the DL from 1998 through 2009, for a fractured elbow in 2001 and knee surgery in 2006 -- and accomplished.

He won just one Gold Glove, but probably should have won more. From his first full season with the Sox through 2005, he threw out an average of 26 percent of opposing base-stealers -- not Pudge Rodriguez territory, but still, plenty good enough.

At the same time, he averaged an .806 OPS, a terrific number for a catcher.

Of course, many of Varitek's most critical contributions weren't on the stat sheet or the back of his baseball card. Pitcher after pitcher lauded him for his diligent preparation, his expert game-calling and his quiet leadership.

He caught four no-hitters -- a major league record for a catcher -- and did it with four different pitchers, some established (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe) and some not (Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester).

(Varitek would have caught a fifth, but Curt Schilling ignored Varitek's suggestion with two outs in the ninth inning and lost a no-hitter when Oakland's Shannon Stewart singled to break up a no-hit bid in 2007. "I shook 'Tek off," said a regretful Schilling afterward, "and I get a big what-if for the rest of my life.")

In perhaps his signature moment in a Red Sox uniform, he famously gave Alex Rodriguez a face wash in July of 2004. Tired of ARod's complaining about being a target for Red Sox pitchers, Varitek intercepted him on his way to first base and shoved his catcher's mitt in his face.

It's an image that Red Sox' fans hold dear. At a time when the rivalry seemed altogether too polite and civil, Varitek supplied some good old fashioned animus from the 1970s. It didn't matter that, at the time, they shared the same agent or that it became unfashionable to dislike your opponent.

In a way, the Red Sox' comeback in the ALCS didn't start in the ninth inning of Game 4, but rather that summer afternoon when Varitek defended his pitchers and said, in no uncertain terms, that the Sox weren't going to be pushed around.

In the next 39 months, the Red Sox won their first two World Series since World War I. Varitek was the starting catcher in all eight World Series games, each one of them a Red Sox win.

With the proper time is passed, that -- and not the aging catcher who had trouble making contact or throwing out the slowest of baserunners -- should be Jason Varitek's legacy.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


Price on his return to Red Sox: ’There’s not a better feeling’

Price on his return to Red Sox: ’There’s not a better feeling’

BOSTON — Red Sox left-hander David Price is set to make his season debut in a holiday matinee Monday on the road in Chicago against the White Sox. 

Price, 31, starting the second season of a $217 million, seven-year contract, has been recovering from a strained pitching elbow since spring training.

“Excited, just to be back here,” he said Thursday. “There’s not a better feeling. You can’t replicate it anywhere else.”

Price allowed nine runs — six earned — and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings in a pair of less-than-impressive injury rehabilitation starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He struck out eight and walked two.

“A lot of pitches, in a short amount of time. I think that is more of a test to being healthy as opposed to going out there and throwing five or six [innings] in 90 pitches,” he said. “To do what I did in both of my rehab outings, I don’t think you can do that if you’re not healthy.”

The Red Sox (24-21) have won four in a row heading into their weekend series against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.

“He’s eager to get back to us and physically he feels great,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “His return to us will give us a definite boost but that’s not to de-emphasize he needs to go out and perform.”

Farrell hopes Price’s return has a trickle-down impact.

“It’s not based solely on the name on the back of his jersey,” Farrell said. “Hopefully it allows us to even out some of the performances within the rotation.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press.