Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Beckett, Varitek reunited — and it felt so good

Posted by Bill Koch on April 11, 2010

Jason Varitek

The Boston Red Sox emptied their bench Saturday night against Kansas City, penciling Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida and Jason Varitek into the starting lineup after the trio was confined to the dugout during the club’s 1-3 start to the season. All three came through in style, as Varitek’s pair of homers powered Boston to an 8-3 win over the Royals.

All substitutions aren’t created equal, however – Varitek’s inclusion might have tipped This Manager’s hand going forward this year. It’s not a coincidence that Varitek made his debut on the same night that Josh Beckett made his second start of the season.

Boston’s front office tried to tap dance their way around this issue down the stretch last season, but controversy simmered after Victor Martinez was acquired at the trade deadline and Varitek continued to slump at the plate. It was obvious that Martinez was going to be doing the bulk of the catching, and Boston’s pitching staff wasn’t all that pleased. They never came out and said so publicly, but based on their history with Varitek it’s an easy conclusion to draw.
Beckett seemed the most affected by Martinez’s arrival. Varitek and Beckett’s professional relationship is a close one, and Beckett has said on several occasions that he feels more comfortable throwing to Varitek than he has been with any other catcher in his life. Varitek seems to be able to understand what Beckett is thinking in terms of pitch selection and location – you could count on one hand the amount of mound visits that Varitek had to make after Beckett shook him off last season. That chemistry didn’t exist with Martinez, and Beckett, like most power pitchers, can be a little bit of a diva at times (just think about the outsized egos of Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, for example). He did a pretty good job keeping his mouth shut, but it’s a poorly-kept secret that Beckett would prefer to have Varitek behind the plate when he pitches.

This can work in Boston’s favor going forward – in fact, This Manager should just come out and confess that it’s what he plans to do. It builds in a day off for Martinez every fifth day and keeps Beckett, the club’s newly-extended ace, as happy as possible. Look for this to continue for the rest of the regular season.

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