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Martinez will catch Beckett

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  October 9, 2009 02:44 AM

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In another signal of Jason Varitek's diminishing role on the Red Sox, Victor Martinez will catch Josh Beckett in Friday's Game 2.

"They definitely told me today," Martinez said late Thursday night. "I wasn't really sure if I was going to catch him."

Martinez gives the Red Sox an abundantly obvious offensive upgrade over Varitek. Plus, he is 3 for 8 with four walks in his career against Angels Game 2 starter Jered Weaver.

In his time with the Red Sox, Varitek has given Beckett comfort and confidence on the mound. Since the start of the 2007 season, Varitek has caught Beckett in 83 of his 90 starts. Manager Terry Francona has talked about stubborn Beckett can be, and Beckett's conviction in his pitches is far stronger when he throws to Varitek.

In the three games Beckett threw to Martinez, opponents batted .373 with a 1.021 OPS against him. In the 27 games Beckett threw to Varitek, opponents batted .217 with a .625 OPS.

Martinez caught Beckett three times down the stretch, which helped their relationship. This week, Martinez caught Beckett during a side session for the first time, which helped Martinez better understand Beckett.

"Definitely," Martinez said. "You can the movement of his pitches. I always say, the more you get to work with a guy, the more comfortable you get. It was good that I got to work with him a little more."

In his time working with Beckett, Martinez has learned Beckett sometimes needs to be harnessed. Beckett can sometimes overthrow, which robs his fastball of movement and causes his offspeed pitches to stay up.

"He just needs to be under control, like the way he pitches every time," Martinez said. "I think tomorrow is going to be a pretty good game. He alwasy gives us a pretty good chance to win a baseball game."

Martinez knows from experience. In 2007, Beckett beat the Indians twice in the ALCS when Martinez played for Cleveland. He struck out 18 in 14 innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and one walk. Martinez went 1 for 6 with a single.

"Way more fun catching him than hitting against him," Martinez said.

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