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Red Sox notebook

It’s a good spot for Varitek

He gets the start vs. lefty Britton

Kevin Youkilis, who went 0 for 3 and is hitting .212, had little to reflect upon in the ninth inning of the Red Sox’ 4-1 loss. Kevin Youkilis, who went 0 for 3 and is hitting .212, had little to reflect upon in the ninth inning of the Red Sox’ 4-1 loss. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 27, 2011

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BALTIMORE — At the beginning of the season, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Jason Varitek likely would catch more than the average backup.

“Some of it would be determined on production or how guys were doing,’’ Francona said. “But he’s been catching so well.’’

Last night, Francona penciled in the 39-year-old Varitek as Clay Buchholz’s catcher as the Sox face Orioles lefthander Zach Britton.

Of Varitek’s eight starts going into last night, the Sox had won six. They had won just four of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s 13 starts.

Asked how many games he expected to catch this season, Varitek said, “I don’t know and it’s still up in the air. You just prepare for whatever.’’

Francona made the move despite the fact that Varitek was hitting .074, 0 for 15 against lefties. His RBI double in the sixth inning of Saturday night’s 5-0 victory over the Angels snapped an 0-for-19 skid.

Last night, in a 4-1 loss, he snapped that hitless streak vs. lefties when he singled to left off Britton with two out in the fifth inning.

“Righthanded is where he should play,’’ Francona said. “I know he’s not swung the bat yet, but it made some sense. We’re playing pretty well with both of them.’’

Asked what concerns he had about playing a catcher Varitek’s age, Francona said, “I would think bouncing back, for one. Tek keeps himself in great shape. It’s the only reason he’s still doing this.

“When we do those [conditioning drills] at the beginning of camp, he knocks everybody out of the water. Still, catching is not very easy, so the bouncing back part is probably a lot harder than it used to be for him.

“We used to catch him all the games except for [Tim Wakefield], whether it was day game after night game. Now I just think we need to think a little bit about, ‘OK, this seems like a good day to catch Tek,’ but does it help him, long-term, or does it set him back?

“We’ve just got to be cognizant. You don’t want to overdo it.’’

Said Varitek: “My body’s been pretty good. It’s been a building process. I’ve had little bumps as we started the season, and then it’s been able to quiet itself.

“I don’t know if I could’ve done that in the first day of spring, but I’m willing to do whatever they ask right now.’’

Buck stops Orioles manager Buck Showalter has bigger things to worry about than the dustup he created in spring training with comments he made about Sox general manager Theo Epstein in a Men’s Journal article.

Asked yesterday whether it was a dead issue, Showalter said, “Well, if it was, why did you bring it up? No, I don’t know. That’s not up to me.

“I addressed it and can again. We’ll see. It’s more about the game. I don’t think our guys . . . it’s not a real topic of conversation for us. But if it is, it is. It’s not their fault, it’s my fault.’’

In the article, Showalter was quoted as saying, “I’d like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll. You got Carl Crawford because you paid more than anyone else, and that’s what makes you smarter? That’s why I like whipping their butt.’’

Showalter later apologized to Epstein, but only after Francona said he was “aggravated’’ by the comments and felt they were out of line.

Familiar surroundings Matt Albers, who came off the disabled list (strained right latissimus) Thursday, returned to familiar surroundings. With the Orioles last season, the righthander went 5-3 with a 4.52 ERA and made a career-high 62 appearances, all in relief.

“I guess it’s a little different coming to this clubhouse,’’ he said. “I’ve just got to look at it as another game and get ready to go.’’

Asked if he knew how to pitch the Orioles from his three seasons in Baltimore, Albers said, “You try to look and kind of see how guys are, but it’s kind of tough.

“Obviously, I have a little idea of how I’d want to pitch a couple of those guys. You kind of see some of the tendencies and if guys are aggressive or not, or if they go the other way better or not’’.

Albers, who faced the Orioles once this spring, worked a hitless inning last night, allowing one walk and striking out one.

Search is on Despite entering last night’s game hitting .280 and coming off a 3-for-5, 2-RBI performance Sunday, Adrian Gonzalez said he still is not feeling comfortable at the plate. That showed when he grounded into a fielder’s choice in the fifth that extinguished a bases-loaded opportunity. “I’m pulling off everything,’’ said Gonzalez, who wound up 1 for 4 with a leadoff double to left in the eighth. “My last at-bat was one of the few at-bats where I stayed on the pitch. It was one of those things where I’m searching. It’s not exactly where I want to be.’’ Gonzalez said it has nothing to do with his surgically repaired right shoulder. “It’s just mechanical,’’ he said. “Things happen in April where you feel like this, but for me it’s a good thing that I’m right around .280 and feeling this way. It’s just repetition. I’ve got to work through it. If I’m feeling really good in that situation, I hit the ball better than that.’’ . . . After going 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs and hitting his first home run of the season Sunday, Carl Crawford was 0 for 4, striking out twice . . . Registration is open for the weekend seminar “Sabermetrics, Scouting and the Science of Baseball’’ May 21-22 at Harvard’s Pfizer Lecture Hall to benefit the Jimmy Fund. Among the panelists are Jared Porter, assistant director of professional scouting for the Red Sox and Tom Tippett, director of baseball information services for the Red Sox. For more information, go to sabreseminar.com . . . Condolences to the family of Win Bates, 64, who died yesterday. He worked for 35 years at the Brockton Enterprise, covering the Red Sox for almost two decades.

Nick Cafardo of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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