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Jason Varitek to announce retirement from baseball on Thursday

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 27, 2012 04:59 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jason Varitek, a two-time World Series champion and the captain of the Red Sox from 2005-11, will announce his retirement here on Thursday, sources told the Globe today.

Varitek is expected to stay with the organization in some capacity.

A member of the Red Sox from 1997-2011, Varitek hit .256 with 193 home runs and 757 RBIs. Only Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19) and Jim Rice (16) had longer tenures with the Red Sox without playing for another team.

Varitek's retirement announcement will be at JetBlue Park. It will come 12 days after righthander Tim Wakefield retired from the Red Sox, ending his 17-year career.

Like Wakefield, Varitek was offered a minor-league contract and an invitation to spring training. But without any guarantees of making the team, he elected to retire instead.

Varitek, who turns 40 in April, will leave behind a legacy few can match. He hit .256 with 193 home runs and 757 RBIs in his career, was a three-time All-Star and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2005. Varitek was ninth in team history with 1,546 games and had the most games for a catcher, .

He also played 63 games in the postseason and was widely respected for his ability to handle pitchers.

Varitek caught a major league record four no-hitters in his career, guiding Hideo Nomo (2001), Derek Lowe (2002), Clay Buchholz (2007) and Jon Lester (2008) into history.

He also is only player to have played in the Little League World Series, the College World Series, the World Series, the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.

Varitek led his high school, Lake Brantley, to the Florida state title in 1990 and the top spot in the USA Today national poll.

A first-round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1994 after a stellar career at Georgia Tech, Varitek was traded to the Red Sox on July 31, 1997 along with Lowe for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb. It proved to be one of the most lopsided trades in history as Varitek became one of the rocks on which the curse-busting 2004 team.

It was during that season, on July 24, when Varitek brawled with Yankees third baseball Alex Rodriguez at Fenway Park.

With the Red Sox down 3-0 and being no-hit in the third inning, Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez with a pitch. When Rodriguez stared out at the mound, Varitek got in his way and the two began fighting.

"I told him, in choice words, to get to first base," Varitek said at the time. “And then it changed from him yelling at Bronson to [us] yelling at each other, and then things got out of hand."

The Red Sox came back to win the game, 11-10, with three runs in the ninth inning. It proved to a catalyst as the underdog Sox advanced to the postseason.

Down three games to none against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Sox rallied back for a historic victory then swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series for the franchise’s first title since 1918.

Varitek had three home runs and 11 RBIs in that postseason. Photographs of his fight with Rodriguez occupy prominent spots in barrooms across New England.

Varitek also played a prominent role with the 2007 champions, hitting 17 home runs and driving in 71 runs that season.

The trade for Victor Martinez in 2009 marked the end of Varitek being an everyday catcher. But he slid gracefully into a reserve role, serving as a mentor to Martinez and then to Jarrod Saltalamacchia last season.

A fractured right foot limited Varitek to 39 games in 2010. He returned last season and played in 68 games, hitting .232 with 36 RBIs.

Varitek said he wanted to return for another season but new general manager Ben Cherington signed Kelly Shoppach to be Saltalamacchia’s backup, effectively ending Varitek’s career with the Sox.

Varitek is one of only five players to catch at least 1,400 games for a single franchise while spending his entire playing career with that club. The others are Johnny Bench (Reds), Bill Dickey (Yankees), Bill Freehan (Tigers) and Jorge Posada (Yankees).

Posada retired earlier this year.

Newly married and with a child on the way, Varitek is sure to he honored at Fenway Park later this season.

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