Should Jason Varitek Be Josh Beckett’s Personal Catcher?

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April 21, 2010

Should Jason Varitek Be Josh Beckett's Personal Catcher? The debate started shortly after the Red Sox acquired Victor Martinez at the 2009 trade deadline.

The Cleveland import's bat was too important to keep out of the lineup. Fortunately, he could play either first base or catcher, but unfortunately, Boston had three options for two positions. Someone needed to sit. Sometimes, it would be Mike Lowell, and Kevin Youkilis would switch to third base so Martinez could play first. Rarely, Youkilis would be the one to sit. Most of the time, it would be Jason Varitek.

Where did that leave the pitching staff?

The majority of Boston's starters (Tim Wakefield excluded) were accustomed to having Varitek as a battery mate. Ace Josh Beckett, since being traded from Florida to Boston prior to the 2006 season, flourished with Varitek behind the plate  –  particularly in 2007, when Beckett went 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA, won a championship and just barely lost out on the AL Cy Young to CC Sabathia.

But if Varitek had to be the one to take a seat in favor of Martinez's bat — and if he'll assume the official role as the backup catcher in 2010 — how difficult will it be for Beckett to adjust?

Manager Terry Francona has steadfastly insisted that Varitek will not be Beckett's personal catcher, telling the Boston Herald as recently as April 17, "I don't know that we want to match up one guy like a personal catcher. In the past, we've done that with Wake out of necessity. … Other than Wake, Tek's caught everybody, so there's nothing to stay away from."

Last year, Martinez caught Beckett just twice during the course of the regular season, leading some to assume that Beckett was more comfortable with Varitek. There were the numbers, too — Beckett boasts a lifetime ERA of 3.81, but with Martinez behind the plate, his ERA balloons to 7.71.

Of course, that doesn't have to indicate anything, given the small sample size. A bunch of Beckett's bad starts could have coincidentally occurred on days Martinez happened to be catching.

Fans began to clamor for a permanent Beckett-Varitek partnership on Aug. 18 of last season, when Varitek was a late scratch and was replaced at the last minute by Martinez. During that start, in the heat of a playoff race, Beckett surrendered seven runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. Three of the hits were home runs. 

Many in Red Sox Nation blamed Martinez for the poor start, but was he really to blame?

Is Beckett's comfort with Varitek too important to ignore? Should Varitek start every time Beckett starts? 

Share your thoughts below. The best comments will be read on NESN's Red Sox Gameday Live or Red Sox Final.

April 20: Should the Red Sox keep Jeremy Hermida in the lineup full-time?

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