The Early Lead
Posted at 03:53 PM ET, 02/28/2012

Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek to retire

(Matt Slocum - AP)
From his rugged beard to the eyes that pierced through his mask behind home plate, Jason Varitek epitomized the resilient nature that characterized the Boston Red Sox during their run of success over the last decade.

But after 15 years crouching behind the dish and clubbing home runs at Fenway Park, Boston’s captain is ready to retire.

Varitek was a reliable contributor during Boston’s 2004 and 2007 World Series championship seasons, providing rare offensive production for a catcher and a steady leadership influence on the team’s pitching staff and inside the dugout.

The 40-year-old has been a no-show at the team’s training facility in Fort Meyers, Fla. and is expected to hold a new conference on Thursday.

Jason Varitek celebrates with Keith Foulke after the Red Sox swept the Cardinals for the 2004 World Series title. (Sue Ogrocki - AP)
“I was expecting Tek to play until he was 60,” Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz said of the catcher who was on the receiving end of his 2007 no-hitter. “He was awesome behind there. I still think he could be awesome behind the plate and have a job in baseball. That was his and his family’s decision.”

A lifetime .256 hitter, Varitek hit 193 home runs and drove in 757 runs. His best statistical season came in 2003 when he mashed 25 home runs and 85 RBI to make the All-Star team. Although his numbers and playing time declined significantly over the last four seasons, Varitek continued to play a key role with the team, shepherding young catcher Jared Saltalamacchia while still serving as Josh Beckett’s personal catcher.

Varitek will be the second 40-year-old American League East catcher to hang ‘em up this offseason, joining New York Yankees rival Jorge Posada, who announced his retirement on Jan. 24 after 17 seasons in the Bronx.

“Especially now that he’s going to retire, it’s the kind of person that this organization needs to keep close,” veteran slugger David Ortiz said. “This is a guy who does nothing but add things, good things.

“It was an honor for me to be his teammate.”

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Jorge Posada retires after 17 seasons with Yankees

By  |  03:53 PM ET, 02/28/2012

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