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The Captain conundrum

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  September 8, 2010 10:11 AM

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Jason Varitek said it first in spring training and he repeated it last night: He wants to keep playing.

The 38-year-old team captain returned last night after missing just over two months with a broken foot. He is hitting .258/.318/.536 in very limited (107 plate appearances) duty this season and has generally looked good when he has played.

Varitek exercised a $3 million option to return to the team. There are no options remaining. Once the season ends, he will be a free agent.

Had he not exercised that option last season, the Red Sox were not going to offer him a contract. Will they now?

"I definitely want to play,’’ Varitek said. “There’s no question. Things have health-wise turned the corner outside of a freak broken bone, that allows me to do some things at a high, high level. Yeah, I definitely want to play.’’

Varitek went on to say he is throwing the ball as well as he ever has and making adjustments well at the plate

“At some levels, I’m doing things better than I ever have,’’ he said. “I definitely want to play another year. I’d like to play a few more years. Just have to see.’’

Varitek took to his new role well this season, voicing no public complaint about his lack of playing time and performing well when he did get in. He seamlessly made a transition that is difficult for many players. For some team, whether it's the Red Sox or not, he will make a good backup catcher.

The Red Sox have some decisions to make. Victor Martinez is a free agent and did not have the offensive impact hoped for this season. But he remains one of the most productive catchers in the game. Outside of Joe Mauer, no AL catcher has done more this season at the plate.

The team also obtained Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a talented player who has yet to realize his potential. Curiously, he has not played much since coming off the disabled list.

There are also a herd of catching prospects in the minors: Luis Exposito. Ryan Lavarnway, Dan Butler, Mark Wagner, Adalberto Ibarra and Tim Federowicz. The Sox are hoping at least one of those players emerges as a major leaguer. But none can be counted on for next season.

The free agent market is pretty slim, too.

A Martinez/Varitek combination worked well for a while this season before both men got hurt. The question now becomes whether Saltalamacchia is good enough to dislodge one of them. Or can the Sox keep all three and use VMart as a DH against lefties and occasional first baseman?

This is going to be an active winter. Whats your take?

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