Varitek makes retirement official at emotional presser

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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.

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.