FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who handled Tim Wakefield almost exclusively last season, said it “feels right” that the knuckleballer is retiring after 19 seasons.
“I was glad and fortunate I was able to play with a professional like him. It kind of feels right [that Wakefield is retiring]. He definitely had plenty left in him. I think he definitely could have played another few years. But I think it was a time of his life where family is important, kids are getting older,” Saltalamacchia said. “He accomplished everything anybody would want to accomplish in this game.
“He was a professional in every aspect of the word. Off the field, on the field, in the clubhouse as far as a friend. He was a guy who would go out of his way for any of us. I have nothing but great things to say about him. I hope we continue this relationship for the rest of our lives.”
Saltalamacchia was asked whether he was surprised that Wakefield was not still on the roster given the team’s need for pitching.
“I think after what happened last year you can’t be surprised about anything,” he said. “I would love to have him back; I enjoyed catching him. We put him in every possible role you could put him in last year and he went out and did his job. A knuckleball pitcher like that, there’s no timetable how many years you can continue to pitch. … I’m a little surprised because I think he did everything that was asked of him and more. I would have liked to have seen him back in camp. But it’s kind of the way things go.”
Daniel Bard said Wakefield had a “legendary” career in Boston.
“I want to remember him for that so much as for the teammate and friend he became after playing three years with him,” Bard said. “He was, I’d say, tough on me as a rookie but still was uplifting enough. After you got through that first year, he really became a good friend and we were able to hang out away from the field and things like that. Good guy, unbelievable in the community. He cares about other people and never forgets to give back, and I’m sure he’ll keep up with that stuff.”
Jacoby Ellsbury wrote on Twitter that it was “a privilege” to have been a teammate of Wakefield. Jon Lester also passed along congratulations to Wakefield on Twitter on “a great run.”
In regards to Jason Varitek, who could be the next to retire, Saltalamacchia said the two have talked “here and there” during the offseason.
“Every time I talked to him he was coming home from the gym. Throwing, hitting, he’s prepared to play. He’s got to make a choice, too, and I don’t know what that is,” Saltalamacchia said. Obviously “I’d love to have him around. I learned a lot last year and he’s helped me out a lot this offseason.”
In addition to Saltalamacchia, the Red Sox have Kelly Shoppach signed to a major-league contract with Ryan Lavarnway waiting in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Saltalamacchia said he has not discussed the situation with Varitek.
“I care about him as a person and a friend. This is a decision he’s going to have to make. Wake made this decision walking out the right way. Just like Jorge [Posada, of the Yankees] had to do the same thing. I know when you’re with one team for your whole carer, you kind of want to end it that way.
“But he’s still able to play and you never want to walk away from this game with regrets.”