Red Sox celebrate Varitek's career as captain

BY foxsports • July 22, 2012

Jason Varitek saluted Toronto manager John Farrell as the retired Red Sox catcher left the field following a pregame ''Thanks, `Tek'' ceremony.

Then the former Boston pitching coach and his Blue Jays spoiled Varitek's special night.

Edwin Encarnacion tied the game with a two-run homer in the sixth, then J.P. Arencibia gave Toronto the lead with a seventh-inning solo shot and the Blue Jays beat Boston 7-3 on Saturday night.

Things started out so well for Boston.

First was the ceremony for Varitek, who spent his entire 15-year career with the Red Sox and helped the club win World Series in 2004 and '07. Then his replacement, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, gave Boston a 3-0 lead with a second-inning homer.

But Aaron Cook (2-3) gave up homers to tie it in the sixth and then fall behind in the seventh.

''They only hit two balls hard against him,'' Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. ''They both went over the fence. It was a pretty good outing.''

Varitek was given the home plate from his final game at Fenway Park and a red pickup truck during the pregame ceremony. The team brought out both World Series trophies, along with members of Varitek's family, friends and former teammates.

''I don't know what to say,'' said Varitek, who spent his whole 15-year career with the Red Sox. ''How do I thank an entire nation for my entire career.''

The team showed highlights on the scoreboard from Varitek's appearance in the Little League and College World Series, as well as the clips of him catching the final outs in 2004 and '07 in Boston's sweeps of St. Louis and Colorado. The video also showed Varitek celebrating with the pitcher in each of the major league record four no-hitters he caught.

''You look back and marvel at playing that position that many years and to see the stuff that he was able to see from his eyes,'' said current Indians pitcher Derek Lowe, who threw one of the no-hitters, on April 27, 2002. ''He should be proud of what he's been able to accomplish.''

One of the best moments for the fans was the video of Varitek confronting Alex Rodriguez during a 2004 game - but the clip was cut off before Varitek punched the Yankees slugger in the face with his glove.

Varitek threw out the ceremonial first pitch to longtime teammate Tim Wakefield, who also retired this offseason. It hit the dirt, but Wakefield scooped it.

Video tributes were played from former teammates Nomar Garciaparra, who also played with Varitek at Georgia Tech, and Lowe. It was Lowe who came to Boston with Varitek at the 1997 trading deadline for closer Heathcliff Slocumb - widely considered the best trade in Red Sox history.

''Ever since I've known him, dating back to being his teammate in college, he has been a tireless worker,'' Garciaparra said. ''His preparation and endless work ethic has made him a true champion. He is a great player, great teammate, great friend and even a better man. Thanks `Tek for all you have taught me.''

Celtics Hall of Famer Larry Bird also taped a video that was played during the game.

Varitek played his entire 15-year career with the Red Sox, batting .256 with 193 homers and 757 RBIs. He caught 1,488 games in a Boston uniform - the most in franchise history. His 190 home runs as a catcher were the most for a Boston player at the position.

He was named the team's captain in 2004.

''The `C' on his chest was just a formality,'' former manager Terry Francona said. ''He was the leader of the team with or without it.''

Carlos Villanueva (5-0) allowed three runs on four hits over 6 1-3 innings to win his third consecutive start. He walked two and struck out five.

''It was kind of a test - keeping the game within reach,'' Villanueva said. ''Our guys came through, J.P. and Eddie, in a big way.''

Cook allowed five runs - three earned - on four hits and a walk while striking out one. He had allowed five earned runs in his previous four starts to drop his ERA from 20.25 to 3.34.

The victory lifted last-place Toronto to .500 and within one-half game of Boston in the AL East.

''Especially in our division, teams keep coming after you and coming after you,'' Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. ''We need to try separate ourselves. There's nothing wrong with getting a five, six-run lead. ... We need to make sure we have better at-bats and try to pull away.''

Saltalamacchia's homer was his 18th of the year, extending his career high.

But that was all the offense Boston got.