Varitek plans to play beyond 2011


Varitek plans to play beyond 2011

By SeanMcAdam

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jason Varitek will turn 39 a few weeks into the regular season, an age when most players are eying retirement and the opportunity to relax.

Varitek is about to begin his 14th season with the Red Sox, all of them spent playing a punishing position.

But instead of getting closer to the finish line, Varitek hopes to keep playing. And not just for another season or two.

Asked Sunday if he could picture himself doing what Bob Boone (who played until 42) and Carlton Fisk (active until 45), Varitek didn't hesitate.

"Absolutely,'' he said. "I think once you're done playing, there's no making a comeback. If my body holds up and I'm able to do the things I can still do, I'll play as long I can.

"If I start compromising my livelihood for my kids and stuff later in life, then I've got to start questioning things. If I'm not putting myself in a competitive spot to help a team win, then I have to question things again.

"But . . . is that what I envision? Yes, that's what I envision . . . You can only play this game for so long and as long as your body holds out and you can be productive and do things. I love playing.''

This could be viewed as the second season of the rest of Varitek's career. Last year, for the first time since 2001, when he broke his elbow, Varitek didn't play at least 100 games, and while he missed time with a broken foot, that had little to do with injuries.

The Sox went with Victor Martinez as their primary catcher and Varitek was relegated to a backup spot. He embraced the role without complaint and, especially early in the season, hit well. When Varitek injured his foot in June, he had an OPS of .871, a way-more-than-respectable number for a 38-year-old catcher.

After rehabbing his foot, Varitek came back in September and was entirely out of rhythm at the plate, collecting just one hit in his final 17 at-bats.

Still, what Varitek took away from last year was the passion he still has for the game. The skills, he showed in the first half, are still there, too, as long as he's not overworked.

He would, of course, prefer to play more. But in time, he learned how to make the transition to backup.

"Accepted or embraced it, I think theres two different things because things can change in a hurry on one end,'' he said. "You cant not not be prepared. Just like Vic Martinez last year hitting his thumb, you got to be ready now right in the middle of that game. So accepting is different than embracing it. I think embracing whatever role that you have for the betterment of this team and trying to do what we want to do is win another championship.''

As Varitek recounted, the transition actually began the year before when Martinez, obtained at the July 31 trade deadline, became the de-facto starter behind the plate.

"I had a good month to two months of being in that role in 2009,'' he said, "It was at a different situation than it might have been having the ability to prepare for it, for winter, for spring training, etc. I think that was harder than it was doing it.

"But then I needed to learn what I need to do to stay sharp. That still will be a work in progress because I think we did a lot. We did things with catching instructor Gary Tuck and did things with hitting coach Dave Magadan that allowed that at different times. It allowed me to be a little more free and active on the bench and those type things.''

This season, Varitek will serve as the backup and mentor to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, with whom he's highly impressed. A number of veteran pitchers have already remarked that Saltalamacchia's personality and style remind them of Varitek himself.

"Salty's going to be Salty,'' said Varitek. "Hopefully, he's not living with constant comparisons. I believe Salty is his own person and he's going be his own player. And he's extremely talented. I don't know if I had those abilities that he has when I was that young and breaking in.

"Yeah, we're both big catchers, we switch-hit, strong-armed throwers and love to play the game. But his work ethic and the things he's shown are the reason we've been able to create a bond right away.''

Varitek urges patience with Saltalamacchia and a chance to learn from his growing pains.

"We may see him great early in the season,'' he said, "or we may see him not-so-great early. But he's going to be a good player - no two ways about it. He's too gifted and works too hard not to be.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

The Cardinals broke open a close game with four runs in the last two innings against Red Sox relief prospect Chandler Shepherd and went on to a 7-2 exhibition victory over Boston yesterday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Red Sox-Cardinals box score

The loss dropped the Sox to 1-3 for the exhibition season.

Boston had jumped on top, 1-0, on an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the first, but St. Louis countered with two runs in the second and one in the third, all against starter Brian Johnson. It remained 3-1 until the Cards touched Shepherd for two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Red Sox added their final run in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Jordan Procyshen, who spent last season at Single-A Salem, hit a sacrifice fly.

Moreland, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Young each had two hits for the Red Sox. who also got scoreless relief from Teddy Stankiewicz, Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Kyle Martin and Brandon Workman. It was Bogaerts' last game before leaving to compete for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The Sox host the Yankees on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m.

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."