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The Red Sox have openly invited both veterans Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek to spring training, but it remains to be seen if either is willing to play again or lean towards retirement. They are two of the limited number of players remaining from the legendary 2004 championship team, and may choose retirement because of a lack of a place on the starting roster or perhaps choose to look at other teams.
According to team president and CEO Larry Lucchino, Boston is waiting on their career decisions.
Wakefield is 45 years old and certainly not getting any younger. He’s been pitching for the Sox since 1995, and has at times appeared ageless with his knuckleball. However, he has struggled as of late, finishing each of the last two seasons with an ERA greater than 5.00. If he were to return to the Red Sox, he would be put into the competition for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation at best, and would pitch long relief in the bullpen.
He has a career 200-180 record, and is the oldest active player in the game. However, he also has 186 victories as a member of the Red Sox, which ranks third in the history of the club. The only men in front of him are Roger Clemens and Cy Young, who each finished their Boston careers with 192 wins. If Wakefield returned for another season, he would certainly have a chance at surpassing them.
After being drafted by the Seattle Mariners, Varitek played his entire major league career in Boston after being traded. He has been the captain of the Red Sox since late 2004. However after the clubhouse debacle at the end of the 2011 season, his leadership position with the team was certainly brought into question. His numbers are also troubling, as he has batted below .235 in each of the last five seasons.
A more significant problem for Varitek returning is the rest of the Boston roster. Starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had his best career year last season and looks to follow it up in 2012. The Red Sox acquired Kelly Shoppach in the offseason as a backup, and big hitter Ryan Lavarnway is on call for some playing time as well. If Varitek came back, he’d have almost no shot at cracking the big league club unless he learned an outfield position.
Considering the biggest need for the Red Sox is starting pitching, it certainly can’t hurt to have Tim Wakefield compete for a starting job in spring training. Varitek on the other hand just doesn’t belong, but if he wants to play again he should look elsewhere. Plenty of teams could use depth at the catching position and a veteran presence.
Wakefield is an inconsistent pitcher at this stage in his career; there’s little doubt about that. But considering the 4th and 5th spots in the Sox rotation will soon be fought over by the likes of Vincente Padilla, Aaron Cook, and Andrew Miller amongst others, he certainly wouldn’t hurt.