Rough outing for Varitek

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / September 26, 2009

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NEW YORK - October baseball demands meritocracy, which explains why one of Jason Varitek’s titles persists and the other diminishes by the day. Varitek is still the Red Sox captain. He may no longer be their catcher.

Victor Martinez was told by Red Sox staff members late last night that he will catch Daisuke Matsuzaka today, which appears to be another sign the Sox will lessen Varitek’s playing time in the playoffs in an effort to put their best lineup on the field.

Varitek’s performance last night in a 9-5 loss to the Yankees provided an extreme example of why Martinez will handle the brunt of the catching in the postseason. Varitek went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and a double play, and the Yankees stole seven bases in seven attempts.

After Varitek dressed, zipping up his boots while he answered each question, he said he planned on returning to the park early. He will take extra batting practice, as he always does, and help the man who is replacing him.

“I’m going to get with him and Daisuke,’’ Martinez said. “That way I’ll have a better idea of what to [expect].’’

No proclamations have been made about Varitek’s role. On Wednesday, Martinez caught Josh Beckett, with whom Varitek shares a strong chemistry. Matsuzaka will make his 72d start with the Red Sox today. It will be the fourth time someone other than Varitek crouched behind the plate.

Varitek, the nerve center of two world championship teams, will still play a role on the team. It will less often be on the field.

“He’s a big help,’’ Martinez said. “A guy like him, you really want to have on your team. He’s been a huge part for me since I got here. He’s been open to me. Anything, if I have a question or something like that, he’s told me, ‘Don’t hesitate. Come to me any time.’ He was one of the guys that I really [look] up to, the way he plays the game and the way he goes about his business. You really have to respect him.’’

“There’s a reason they put that ‘C’ on his chest,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “Even through maybe disappointment or . . . a little bit of a reduced role, he still exhibits a lot of leadership.’’

Varitek’s season average has dropped to .208. He’s hitting .120 since trade deadline, with a .196 slugging percentage. He has one home run in his last 126 at-bats. The peccadillo that hindered him last season, tapping his toe as a timing mechanism, has returned.

“Minus today, I think at times I’ve had good at-bats,’’ Varitek said. “I had good at-bats in Baltimore. I had good at-bats in KC. Today, I didn’t have as good at-bats. I’ve got to try to stick to the process. I’m not going to quit on it.’’

Varitek, 37, promised that the Yankees’ aggressive, and successful, running game did not have any effect on his hitting. The Red Sox insisted, rightfully, that the Yankees guessed correctly on starter Jon Lester’s first move.

Still, opponents have a 92.2 percent success rate stealing against Varitek this year. An opponent has stolen at least six bases in a game eight times this season, and Varitek was the opposing catcher in four of them.

“The only thing I can do is make a good throw,’’ Varitek said. “A couple balls bounced and they had to jump for a throw. I made a good throw on that last one.’’

His most glaring issue remains his offense. Varitek provided a power source from the bottom of the lineup early in the season, but that has disappeared.

“Things happen,’’ Martinez said. “He really does a lot of things for this team, this organization. You can’t really talk about that.’’

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