Sox facing tough call at catcher

Posted Sept. 23, 2009, at 11:26 p.m.
Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek looks to the pitcher during the team's first official spring training workout, Friday, Feb. 18, 2005, in Ft. Myers, Fla.  Varitek signed a four-year contract with the Red Sox during the off season. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek looks to the pitcher during the team's first official spring training workout, Friday, Feb. 18, 2005, in Ft. Myers, Fla. Varitek signed a four-year contract with the Red Sox during the off season. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Boston Red Sox's Victor Martinez watches his three-run home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Octavio Dotel, that also scored Alex Gonzalez, and Jacoby Ellsbury during the ninth inning  of a baseball game and 6-1 win over the White Sox Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Boston Red Sox's Victor Martinez watches his three-run home run off Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Octavio Dotel, that also scored Alex Gonzalez, and Jacoby Ellsbury during the ninth inning of a baseball game and 6-1 win over the White Sox Sunday, Sept. 6, 2009 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, “That’s a good question. I’m not saying that’s not a good question. I just don’t have an answer right now.”

The question poised to him was how he was going to use Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez when the postseason rolls around.

“I know we have to have the offense of Martinez in there,” Francona said. “That does not answer the issue of how the two will be used.”

Complicating the issue is the fact Varitek, who has seen his time diminish behind the plate since Martinez’s arrival, is the catcher for all but one of Josh Beckett’s starts this year.

Beckett will have a role in answering the question if he feels strongly about Varitek behind the plate in his starts.

Martinez has pumped up his offensive numbers since joining the Sox from Cleveland. He was hitting .284 with 15 home runs and 67 RBIs with Cleveland in 99 games.

With Boston, he has hit .333 with 6 home runs and 34 RBIs entering Wednesday night’s, his 46th with the Sox.

His 21-game hit streak is the longest by a player acquired by a team midseason or later since David Martinez had a 21-game streak with Toronto in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The hitting streak is the longest active one in MLB, and the second lengthiest by a Sox player this season. Jacoby Ellsbury hit in 22 consecutive games back in May. Martinez is hitting .358 during the streak.

Varitek has struggled to stay above the .200 mark and had just 11 hits in his last 89 at-bats (.124 average) entering Wednesday night’s game.

There is a matter of emotion here. Varitek has been a part of the winning decade for the Sox and he is the captain.

In the end, what is best for the team is the only criteria Francona will use to decide how the players are used, but there will be a touch of pain for the manager if Varitek’s role is further reduced.

Martinez can play first. Kevin Youkilis would move to third and Mike Lowell to the bench, as has happened a number of times since Martinez’s acquisition.

That move becomes more difficult if Lowell is really 100 percent after the season-long problems coming off hip surgery. He says he is fine, but watching him play some days, it looks like he still has pain and that his mobility has been reduced.

Lowell at third and Youkilis at first is still the best defensive alignment for the Sox, with Martinez behind the plate.

Neither catcher has been successful at throwing runners out, so that is a wash.

Part of the compensation for other teams stealing bases against the Sox is the firepower that just overwhelms teams.

If the Sox face the Angels, they encounter the best team in the majors at running the bases. They will need all the offense they can get in the line-up.

Francona can wait on the answer to the question. So often in the game, the answers present themselves based on injuries.

Until then, he will seek at- bats for both catchers and see what happens.

bdnsports@bangordailynews.net

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