Red Sox Notebook

No call for catcher to make

Varitek is happy team made offer

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / December 12, 2010

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Jason Varitek thought there was a chance he had played his last game for the Red Sox. The ovation he received from the crowd on Oct. 3 when he came out of the game against the Yankees in the top of the ninth inning seemed like a farewell, and he was emotional afterward.

But Varitek, who turns 39 in April, will be back for his 15th season, the Sox having signed their captain to a one-year deal worth $2 million. The deal was made earlier this month, but Varitek did not get his physical until Friday, then stuck around to meet fans during the Christmas at Fenway event yesterday.

Other teams contacted Varitek after he became a free agent. He would not say whether any offers were extended, but he clearly was relieved the Sox made theirs.

“There were things going on. There was interest,’’ he said. “I was going to have to make a lot of decisions and I didn’t have to. I’m just glad when it came down to it, I didn’t have to.’’

Varitek hit .232 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 39 games last season. A broken right foot put him on the disabled list from July 1 until Sept. 5.

Varitek hit lefthanded pitchers well last season, something he has done throughout his career. The Sox envision him working in tandem with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitter who hits righthanders better.

“We’re thrilled to have Tek back,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said. “We really like everything Tek brings to the table. His leadership, the way he handles the pitching staff, his mentorship of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.’’

The Sox are still pursuing free agent catcher Russell Martin, who is expected to make a decision within a week. The Yankees and Blue Jays also have made Martin offers.

Regardless, the Sox expect Varitek to play a prominent role.

The best news for him is that he won’t have to try to throw out Carl Crawford, the new Sox left fielder. When he was with Tampa Bay, Crawford stole 62 bases against the Sox, most of them against Varitek.

“In my opinion, he’s probably the most athletic player that’s in the game,’’ Varitek said. “Every year he seems to get better.’’

Varitek last threw Crawford out in 2004. “Good for me,’’ he said, laughing.

Varitek said he doesn’t know how many more years he wants to play.

“If I can physically endure and mentally endure and be competitive, I don’t know,’’ he said. “I would hope a few more years. At this point in my career, it’s a year-to-year basis. But physically I feel like I can play a few more years.’’

Cameron’s role With Crawford aboard, the Sox are now planning to use Mike Cameron as their fourth outfielder and occasional designated hitter. The righthanded-hitting Cameron is a career .269 hitter against lefthanders with an .866 OPS.

Epstein called Cameron within minutes of Crawford agreeing to terms to discuss his new role.

“Cam was really excited,’’ Epstein said. “He’s an ultimate class guy, the ultimate teammate. He said, ‘Whatever you guys need for me to fit into this team, I’ll do.’ He was really excited about the move.’’

Cameron, who turns 38 in January, had extensive surgery in August to repair lower abdominal and groin tears.

“Not that he can’t play every day, but this role is something he can embrace and make the most out of and make a tremendous impact on the team,’’ Epstein said.

Speed kills Crawford is looking forward to playing the outfield with fellow burner Jacoby Ellsbury.

“It’s going to be wonderful,’’ he said. “Playing with a good center fielder . . . [the left fielder’s] job is to make his job easier. Balls in the left-center gap that he normally has to go get, he don’t have to worry about that ball because I’ll catch that. It’ll definitely let him be able to do a lot more. My job is to definitely make his job easier.’’

He’s also eager to patrol left field at Fenway as a member of the home team.

“They can boo somebody else now,’’ he said. “I took my share out there. It was torture.’’

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