NEW YORK -- It had been six long seasons since Jason Varitek last caught a game by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Wednesday night, after Wakefield got the win in a 11-6 Red Sox victory over the New York Yankees, Varitek pronounced himself mostly satisfied.
"I hadn't caught him (for an extended period) in a long time,'' said Varitek. "You need reps with Wake and I had no opportunity to prepare. No side work. It was a grind.''
Varitek caught Wakefield for multiple innings in the spring out of the bullpen, and also handled him for several side sessions.
But even then, Varitek said, he estimated it had been "a few weeks'' since he had caught Wakefield at all. The Sox have mostly paired Wakefield with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was unavailable Wednesday night with a stomach virus.
"The tough part today,'' said Varitek, "was he'd throw one and it would spin. Then he would throw another and it woudld be a double-breaker, left and right.''
Varitek said he learned a lot watching former teammate Doug Mirabelli catch Wakefield for several seasons. Catching instructor Gary Tuck also incorporated some things to help Varitek.
"I was pretty happy,'' concluded Varitek of the night.
The Red Sox got some good news on another catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Saltalamacchia was violently ill Tuesday night and again Wednesday, and for a while late Wednesday afternoon, the Sox were concerned that Saltalamacchia might be suffering from appendicitis and would require a surgical procedure.
But after tests conducted at a New York hospital, it was determined that Saltalamacchia was suffering from what Terry Francona termed "intestinal turmoil.''
Saltalamacchia was in the clubhouse for a while Wednesday night before returning to the team hotel. He wasn't scheduled to catch the series finale with Josh Beckett and probably won't be available until Friday -- at the earliest -- when the Sox begin a weekend series in Toronto.
The Sox were able to summon Luis Exposito on short notice from Pawtucket. He arrived at Yankee Stadium about an hour before game time.