BALTIMORE — Jason Varitek is one of the great winners in Red Sox history, twice helping lead the team to a World Series championship, and playing in 63 postseason games during a 15-year career.
Now, in his new role as a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington, Varitek wants to play a significant part in returning the franchise to the glory he enjoyed as a player.
Seeing the Red Sox become one of the worst teams in baseball has been hard for Varitek.
“It’s upsetting, more so for the organization, the fan base, and what everybody has grown to expect in a place like that,” Varitek said during a conference call Friday. “The ultimate goal is to get back to that same winning tradition.
“That’s why you do it. That’s why I never left this organization. That’s why you take part. I know a lot of the people still and I’m not that far removed. If I can offer some help in some ways then I want to be able to do it.”
Varitek, 40, announced his retirement in February and said at the time he wanted to stay in the organization in some capacity. In the seven months since, he has adjusted to family life away from the game. He remarried in the last year and had another child, his fourth daughter.
“It was the first Fourth of July I didn’t play a game. My kids let me know that,” he said.
Now Varitek is ready to gradually make his presence known in the organization. His job will include working with minor league catchers, advising Cherington on personnel matters, and evaluating players in the farm system.
Varitek attended several meetings Friday, diving in right away.
“I don’t think there’s any one thing. I’m trying to learn what I don’t know and what I can help with and what I need to learn where maybe I fit better to help with. It’s a huge gray area where I’m trying to learn as much as I can,” Varitek said.
“I’m interested because I want this team and this organization to do well. It’s at a smaller scale now and maybe through time it ratchets up . . . I think it’ll be gradual. Different areas could take off in different directions. I’m very open to learning as much as I can.”
Sox players were happy to see their former captain back in an official capacity.
“He brings a lot. He’s not too far removed from the game and he’s a guy who was part of a lot of winning ball clubs,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who counts Varitek as a mentor. “He was here when the Red Sox turned it around.
“I had a chance to talk to him during this last homestand. He’s excited about this team getting better. We talked about a lot of things that he can help out. It was fun to sit there and talk to him. Knowing Jason, he’s not going to be part of something unless the goal is to win.”
Clay Buchholz believes Varitek can serve as a conduit between the clubhouse and the front office.
“It takes baseball people to help a team come together. He is a person we can all talk to, not just about baseball but about everyday life,” said Buchholz, who threw one of the four no-hitters Varitek caught. “It’s nothing but a positive for everybody to have him back in this organization.
“It’ll be good to have a guy who knows what winning feels like and what winning should feel like being around our team. We need that.”
Because of his experience as a catcher and leader, Varitek has long been considered a candidate to manage one day. But he isn’t saying when that day might come.
“If I answer it either way right now, I wouldn’t be giving myself the best opportunity to . . . I’m not in a position to make that a yes or a no at this point,” he said.
For now, it’s good enough to have a position that could lead in several directions, including the dugout.
“Tek can do whatever he wants in this game,” Dustin Pedroia said. “Whatever he does, he’s going to do well. I’m glad he’s going to be around because we need him.”