It’s a touchy subject in Boston to be sure. On this most optimistic of days, the Red Sox’ home opener, the captain of the team, catcher Jason Varitek, looks to be nearing his end. And so the question hangs in the air, like a solitary rain cloud on an otherwise sunny day: What’s to be done about Tek?
Last season, Tek hit .238 with 12 HR in about 30 fewer games than usual, due to injuries. So far this season he’s hitting .125. Of course, it’s early, but the Red Sox captain didn’t exactly light it up in spring training, either. I saw him in person in a game against the Devil Rays. He looked over-matched.
The situation with Varitek gets even stickier because moving him to a reserve roll would mean giving more playing time to backup Doug Mirabelli, who isn’t exactly the second coming of Babe Ruth. Last season Mirabelli hit .193 in 59 games for Boston. The Sox are stuck with Mirabelli on their roster, despite his offensive ineffectiveness, because he’s the only guy in the organization, maybe the only guy on earth, who can catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. So as long as Wakefield is around, Mirabelli will be, too.
Which brings us back to Tek, and what to do with him. The Sox have a promising prospect in George Kottaras, who can flat out hit but is still learning the position. Lately, though, folks in the Sox organization have been raving about the progress Kottaras has made behind the plate. You get the feeling this would be a great time to bring Kottaras up to the show, to let him back up Varitek and let him learn from the team captain how to handle an MLB staff. Except then the Sox would either have to cut Mirabelli or let the new guy try and catch Wakefield, which would be more than a little cruel.
It’s a dilly of a pickle, indeed. It’s a problem that Varitek could solve himself, should he rediscover his hitting stroke. But should he continue to struggle with the bat, the Sox will have some tough decisions to make.
UPDATE: As I type this, Varitek is 3 for 3 in today’s game versus Seattle. I want to go on record saying this absolutely doesn’t mean that he’s rediscovered his stroke. It’s not bad news, of course. And Varitek should be happy about his good day. But he got his three hits off of Jeff Weaver and the Mariners’ bullpen. Hitting against Weaver shouldn’t even count towards a player’s stats. The only thing easier than getting a base hit off of Weaver is hitting a homer off of Eric Milton. I was walking across the street the other day and tripped on the curb and accidentally hit a homer off of Milton. I don’t know how it happened, but it did.