Gary Tuck earned what so many seek to earn throughout their coaching careers: respect. So while replacing a bullpen coach hardly leads to the fanfare of signing a free agent or executing a trade, the Red Sox need to choose wisely in replacing Tuck.
Immediately, the name that comes to mind is Jason Varitek.
The former Red Sox captain rejoined the organization in September as a special assistant to general manager Ben Cherington, and it’s long been assumed — even during Varitek’s playing days — that Tek would someday become a coach, likely within the Boston organization. Upon hearing of Tuck’s decision to retire, Varitek seems like a logical replacement given his baseball smarts, familiarity with the organization and its players, and, most importantly, his familiarity with Tuck.
Varitek held his former coach in the highest regard while the two worked together, even thanking Tuck individually during his retirement speech at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers last March.
“If Webster needs a definition of coach, it has to be Gary Tuck,” Varitek said during his speech. “He has meant more to me at an age I was told my skills were depleted. But he pushed me, got me better, stood by my side, believed in me when no one else did. I forever will have a friend in Coach Tuck.”
Varitek’s friendship with Tuck isn’t enough to warrant a passing of the torch, but Tek’s vote of confidence holds a lot of weight, as should the bond established between the two leaders during Tuck’s six-year stint in Boston. If there is one player who knows Tuck more than anyone, it is Varitek. And given the time the two spent working together on a daily basis, it’s probably safe to assume Varitek would approach the role of bullpen coach in a similar manner, whether that means implementing similar philosophies, mentoring techniques or drills. The Red Sox would essentially be hiring a little bit of Tuck by going with Varitek.
That has to be very tempting for the Red Sox’ front office, especially when you consider the amount of success that Varitek had under Tuck’s tutelage and the success that Jorge Posada had while being coached by Tuck in the Yankees’ system. If Varitek was able to impart even part of his wisdom on the organization’s current batch of catchers — which includes the still young Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the up-and-coming Ryan Lavarnway and impressive prospect Blake Swihart — then it’d be immediately be viewed as a fantastic addition to manager John Farrell‘s staff.
In fact, Varitek’s relationship with Farrell would make a transition to the role of bullpen coach that much smoother. One thing that stuck out during last season’s train wreck was Bobby Valentine‘s apparent lack of relationship with his fellow coaches, particularly Tuck. With Varitek serving as a coach under Farrell, that wouldn’t be an issue because of how closely the tandem worked together during Farrell’s first stint in Boston — when Farrell was the team’s pitching coach from 2007-2010 and Varitek was the starting catcher.
Varitek becoming the Red Sox’ bullpen coach would hardly guarantee the club’s 2013 pitching staff would fare better than the 2012 version, but a glimpse of Boston’s AL-best 3.87 ERA in 2007 and the success of Jon Lester while both both Tek and Farrell were in the mix suggests it could help restore order.
The fact of the matter is that Varitek will likely proceed in his current role as special assistant. He’s reportedly not considered a likely candidate — in large part because of his own wishes — and the 40-year-old might not dive into the world of coaching for a few more years. When Varitek is ready to take the plunge, though, the Red Sox should be ecstatic about his decision.