Varitek: With Pedro on mound, it was a bullpen day off


BOSTON - Pedro Martinez' number retirement will bring back some of his former Red Sox teammates to join in the celebration.

But one former teammate, Jason Varitek, is around Fenway Park often as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington - the same job title Martinez holds.

Chances are Varitek would be here anyways, as he was lucky enough to catch Martinez for years on the Red Sox.

While Varitek can say with confidence that Martinez was the best pitcher he's caught - and probably the best pitcher he's seen, too - it may not have been something he was thinking about in the moment.

"You look back and it's just an opportunity," Varitek said. "I was so young, it was the most memorable moments I [was a part of] behind the plate. You don't appreciate how good someone is until you play your entire career and you don't really see it again."

Martinez will be the 8th Red Sox player to have his number retired, joining Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4), Johnny Pesky (6), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9), Jim Rice (14), and Carlton Fisk (27).

He'll be the first pitcher on that list, too. During his 7-year career with Boston (1998-2004), Martinez was the major league leader in win pct. (.760, 117-37), ERA (2.52), opponent AVG (.206), opponent OBP (.261), opponent SLG (.317), opponent OPS (.578), and WHIP (0.98).

He was the total package, outsmarting hitters with his mind and his arm.

"I think it's all the above," Varitek said of what made Martinez so good. "He had the physical tools with an exploding fastball, location of it, ability to change speeds, a devastating changeup developed into the same curveball. He had plus pitches across the board. But it only goes so far unless you have the competitiveness and heart that he had when he pitched. And it made him who he was."

Varitek didn't have one specific Martinez moment that stood out to him, but did say the first three years he caught him were all special. Red Sox fans would certainly agree with that.

"I think the rest of our ERA for our entire starting staff was around four-and-a-half innings," Varitek said. "He'd go out there and average seven-and-a-half, eight, whatever it was. It was a bullpen day off which didn't happen too, too often. His best moments was almost every time he took the mound. You had that opportunity that that was going to be a special night.

Varitek watched about three-and-half hours of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Sunday, and admitted he got emotional during Martinez' speech.

Tonight will bring another round of emotions.

"It's huge. You look on that board and there's only a few [retired numbers]," Varitek said. "There's only room for a few. Deservedly so that Pedro is going to go up there with them. I don't know if you've had that electric of a pitcher ever here wearing this uniform."

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