Pedro: Sox cannot let Varitek go

January, 14, 2012
BOSTON -- Pedro Martinez had a message for the Red Sox on Friday night: They should not cut ties with Jason Varitek. Not now. Not ever.

"If there are any Red Sox management here, you cannot let 'Tek go," Martinez said at a charity dinner in his honor at the Liberty Hotel. "You have to keep him in Boston. He was our head, our captain. He should retire as a member of the Red Sox, and never leave."

Martinez's comments, which came unprompted, came at a time when Varitek's active career as a Sox player appears to be coming to an end. The Sox last year began the transition to Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their everyday catcher, then this winter signed Kelly Shoppach as a backup. New general manager Ben Cherington has repeatedly expressed his desire to keep Varitek in the organization, but a nonplaying position would seem to be the only option available at this stage. Varitek could conceivably come to camp on a minor-league contract as a nonroster player, but that would make little sense. Even if one of the top two catchers had an injury, the Sox also have top prospect Ryan Lavarnway in the wings.

Varitek, who turns 40 on April 11, last year expressed a desire to play for several more seasons, but he has attracted little interest on the free-agent market. He has expressed little interest in taking an on-field job after his playing career is over, at least for the time being, saying he would prefer to spend time with his family. That could change, but perhaps a more appealing position would be as a special assistant to the general manager, the type of role former Sox players Mark Loretta and Bill Mueller have with the Padres and Dodgers, respectively.

But Varitek has not yet officially signalled his intention to retire.

With former Sox general manager Dan Duquette in the audience, Martinez joked about resuming pitching in the big leagues for the Baltimore Orioles, where Duquette has landed as GM.

Relating a story he said he'd never shared before, Duquette described how he and Martinez's agent, Bob Gilhooly, came to terms on a new contract for Martinez at New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel. They made the deal, Duquette said, under pressure from members of the Secret Service, who with their search dogs were impatiently waiting for them to exit their suite so they could prepare it for a soon-to-be arriving guest -- President Clinton.

They got the deal done, Duquette said, thanks to a Secret Service agent who said he was from Maine.

"I don't know who this guy is," the agent said to his superior, gesturing at Duquette, who was sitting on the edge of the bed, "but he's trying to sign Pedro Martinez. The President of the United States can wait."

Martinez expressed his unending affection for Boston and called winning the 2004 World Series and the parade that followed the highlight of his career. "Even though I was hit right in the middle of the forehead by a ball," he said. "We were on the duck boats in the river and a fan who was on a bridge decided he wanted my autograph. He dropped the ball and it hit me right in the face. I had a headache for three hours, but I didn't care."

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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