Catchers In No Rush To Go Anywhere Else

Jason Varitek told reporters in Ft. Myers Saturday that he hopes a contract extension with the Red Sox can be worked out—but that he doesn't want to negotiate during the season.

"Of course, once spring training's over, you want things done with," Varitek told reporters. "You have to focus on the team, and we still have to focus on the team throughout spring training. I don't think either side has ever really believed in working through things a season too much."

Varitek's agent, Scott Boras, said in January he hoped to meet with the Sox during spring training. Varitek is entering the final season of a four-year, $40 million deal he signed after the Sox won the 2004 World Series.

Whether the deal is signed now or after the season, there seems little doubt Varitek will be behind the plate for the Sox come Opening Day 2009—and 2010. Catching prospects such as Mark Wagner, Dusty Brown and George Kottaras are still far from big league ready and their upside remains uncertain.

In addition, Varitek—who turns 36 in April—said he wants to play as long as possible. Even though he's at an age when catchers typically fall off dramatically, he certainly appears to be in shape to continue playing several more years: Terry Francona told reporters Saturday that Varitek "…blew everybody out of the water" during conditioning drills Friday.

"I want to play as long as my body will allow me to play and I can competitively play," Varitek said. "If I start to become a detriment, we may have to change my role and then see from there. I proved what I can handle last year and what I can work through. Being able to handle that, and handle that workload, I proved a lot to myself."

Mirabelli happy to return: Varitek isn't the only Sox catcher who wants to remain in Boston for the long-term. Doug Mirabelli, who took a pay cut for the second straight season to return as Varitek's backup and the personal catcher for Tim Wakefield.

"Everybody that knows me knows that this is where I always want to be," Mirabelli told reporters Saturday. "I don't want to leave here. And I told Theo [Epstein] that. He knows until they force me out of here, I'm never leaving."

Mirabelli has spent parts of the last seven seasons with the Sox, though not consecutively. He was acquired from the Rangers in June 2001 and was traded to the Padres in exchange for Mark Loretta in December 2005. But with Josh Bard struggling as Wakefield's personal catcher and Mirabelli unhappy serving as a backup in San Diego, the Sox reacquired him May 1, 2006.

For starters: Sox pitching coach John Farrell told Japanese reporters Saturday that he expects Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka to start the first games of spring Feb. 28-29. Beckett is slotted to start against Boston College Feb. 28 and Matsuzaka is scheduled to take the mound for the Grapefruit League opener against the Twins the next day.

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