BOSTON Jason Varitek wants to learn as much as he can in his new role as special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. But the former team captain wouldnt say if he sees managing in his future.No, Im still not . . . if I answer it either way right now, I wouldnt be giving myself the best opportunity, Varitek said in a conference call with reporters Friday morning. Im not in a position to make that a yes or a no at this point.The Sox announced Variteks new role on Thursday. The team planned to hire him in a front-office capacity from the time he announced his retirement in spring training, and -- after Varitek spent his first post-baseball summer with his family -- brought him on board this week.Im just going to be involved in a lot of scenarios to learn things, everything from meetings to player development, to things along those lines, Varitek said. On the catching side I'll be working with some people in the minor leagues and that kind of stuff, but thats a little farther ahead. But right now its just some meetings.Im trying to learn what I dont know and what I can help with and what I need to learn and where, maybe, I fit better to help with. So its a huge gray area where Im trying to learn as much as I can.Varitek, 40, has been part of the Sox organization since 1997, when he was acquired by former GM Dan Duquette at the trading deadline from the Mariners with right-hander Derek Lowe in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek and Lowe went on to be major parts of the 2004 World Series championship team.In addition to winning the World Series in '04 and '07, Varitek is the all-time team leader in postseason games (63) and at-bats (228). He is third in all-time postseason starts (58) and games at catcher (62), behind Jorge Posada (106, 119) and Yogi Berra (61, 63). He was selected as winner of the Jackie Jensen Hustle Award from the Boston Chapter of the BBWAA in 1999, and was the 2006 recipient of the Red Sox Heart and Hustle Award.The Red Sox' struggles over the past few seasons are among the reasons he is coming back to the organization."Its upsetting, more so for the organization, the fan base and what everything has grown to expect in a place like that. The ultimate goal is to get back to that same winning tradition," Varitek said."Thats why you do it. Thats why I never left this organization. Thats why you take part . . . I know a lot of the people still and Im not that far removed that if I can offer some help in some ways, then I want to be able to do it."In 15 major-league seasons with the Sox, Varitek caught a team-record 1,488 games. A three-time All-Star, he hit .256 with 193 home runs and 757 RBI in 1,546 games. He also caught a major league-record four no-hitters. In 2005 he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger, the first Sox catcher to ever win the batting award.Varitek was named the 18th captain in Sox history when he re-signed with the team on Dec. 24, 2004. A first-round pick (14th overall) of the Mariners in 1994, Varitek is the fourth-longest tenured player in Sox history who never played a major-league game for another team, behind Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19), and Jim Rice (16).Being away from the game this year for the first time was not easy, he said, but it had some advantages."That's literally a double-edged sword, he said. Yeah, its probably the first Fourth of July I didn't actually play a game. My kids let me know that. As far as, I think I came to rest with it immediately. But did I miss it? Absolutely. So I came to rest with it pretty easy right away."And now, the time was right to take on a new job.I had to get the foundation of my family set up, he said. I was having another child, getting to spend more time with my older children. This is just something we worked on and it just happened to fall later at the end of the summer."
PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.
Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.
"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."
Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."
Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.
Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.
"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."
Clark saw talks differently.
"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."
Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."
Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.
"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."
MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.
Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.
"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."
Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."
"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.
Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.