Veteran catcher Jason Varitek officially put an end to his playing career on Thursday evening with a farewell press conference at the Red Sox’ spring training complex in Fort Myers, Florida.
Speaking from a podium fittingly placed just in front of home plate at the newly constructed JetBlue Park, Varitek addressed his reasoning behind the decision to call it quits and expressed a deep affection for the Red Sox organization. The 39-year-old backstop was flanked by his wife and three daughters.
“This last week is probably one of the hardest weeks you go through as a player,” Varitek told those gathered while taking intermittent pauses and wiping tears from his eyes. “After months of deliberating what to do, I decided that it’s best for me and my family that I retire — that I retire a Red Sox. This decision wasn’t something I took lightly in any sense of the word, nor did I want to do it more than once. This has probably been the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in my career, but the opportunity to start and finish my major-league career in one place meant more to me, and that’s why I’m standing here today.”
Varitek was a .256/.341/.435 career hitter during his 15-year MLB career. The three-time All-Star and 2005 Gold Glove winner will finish with 1,307 career hits, 193 career home runs and two World Series rings.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.