FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jason Varitek did not agree to become a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington for ceremonial reasons. After 15 years as a player, he had a sincere interest in learning another side of baseball.
In December, Varitek attended the winter meetings with Cherington and other front office staffers. Then he was in Boston five weeks later to speak at the rookie development camp. Now he is back in uniform for spring training, helping to instruct catchers.
Varitek will work in player development next month, guiding minor league players and then help the amateur scouting department prepare for the June draft.
At 40, Varitek is retired as a player. But his career as an executive may just be starting.
“I’m learning a lot of different areas, different avenues,” Varitek said Wednesday.
Several major league teams, most notably the World Series champion Giants, have incorporated former major league players into their decision-making structure. That hasn’t been the case for the Red Sox in the last decade, but Cherington values the counsel of Varitek.
Pedro Martinez holds a similar position on Cherington’s staff. Tim Wakefield also has become involved.
Varitek has a hybrid role for now. He will spend some days in uniform, working directly with players and others at a desk, offering his opinion about roster moves and organizational policy.
“I’m enjoying these days of being on the field because that’s what I’m most accustomed to,” he said. “But that learning process still has a lot of things to be involved with over the next six, eight months.”
Varitek has a wife and four daughters and a life he wants to lead with them. But the idea of playing a role with the Red Sox held appeal to him.
“I’ll go out to see some of our younger players. Maybe even to go out and see amateur players preceding the draft,” Varitek said.
“It’s a learning experience to understand the work that everybody does . . . The only reason I am here is just to help. It’s not to take anybody’s job or advance in somebody else’s job. It’s just to be helpful.”
Varitek said he misses playing, especially the camaraderie in the clubhouse. But he is comfortable with his decision to retire and pursue another path in the game.
“I passed my mark,” he said.
Good day for Clay
Clay Buchholz threw 30 pitches of live batting practice and felt no pain in his right hamstring. Buchholz was injured on Feb. 12 during a fielding drill.
“I felt really good. The key for me today was mixing in my pitches and being down,” said Buchholz, whose next step will be a two-inning simulated game Saturday.
Manager John Farrell is encouraged. He said Buchholz has time to catch up to the other starters and will not be significantly set back.
“Not at this point. He basically missed one BP session. Given the additional days in this camp, he should be fine,” Farrell said.
Buchholz has yet to run at full speed since the strain. That will be the final test before he pitches in a game.
“It doesn’t bother me to throw off the mound. The question marks are going to be how long it’s going to be before I can go full speed from throwing a pitch and then having to cover first,” he said.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has indicated little willingness to discuss a long-term contract with the Sox. But another pending free agent, closer Joel Hanrahan, is willing to talk if the Sox bring up the idea.
“It has been great here so far,” Hanrahan said. “I didn’t know what to expect, being traded over here. But I was a fan of this team before and I’ve enjoyed everything about it. If they want to talk about something, I would listen.”
Hanrahan, 31, was an effective closer for the Pirates from 2011-12. The Sox would likely want to see how he pitches before even considering a deal.
Let the games begin
The Red Sox will host Northeastern and Boston College Thursday. The Sox will use 14 relievers for one inning each in the seven-inning games. Northeastern is expected to start righthander Dylan Maki, a senior from Gloucester, Mass. Lefthander Nate Bayuk, a graduate student from Foxborough, Mass., will start for the Eagles. Righthander Terry Doyle, who is in Sox camp on a minor league contract, pitched for BC from 2005-08 and is scheduled to throw an inning against them. Eagles coach Mike Gambino was a Red Sox minor leaguer from 2000-01 and faced BC as a Sox player.