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Varitek officially signs back with Red Sox

Varitek officially signs back with Red Sox

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BOSTON -- The captain is back.

After agreeing last week on a one-year, $2 million contract that includes $300,000 in incentives, Jason Varitek officially signed back with the Red Sox after passing his physical on Friday.

Varitek will likely serve as a backup and mentor to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, though Red Sox manager Terry Francona said earlier this week that his captain will probably play more than the average reserve.

This marked the fourth time in the past seven offseasons that Varitek had the option to leave Boston. He was a free agent at the end of the 2004 season, and the Sox re-signed him for four years at $40 million, making him their captain at that time.

Varitek was again a free agent when that contract expired, and he signed a one-year deal with a dual option shortly before Spring Training in 2009.

Last winter, after the Red Sox declined Varitek's $5 million club option, the catcher exercised his $3 million player option.

The Red Sox have also made an offer to Russell Martin, a veteran catcher who was non-tendered by the Dodgers. The Yankees and Blue Jays are also in the running for Martin.

It is unclear how Martin would fit in with the Red Sox, though the club still has Minor League options on Saltalamacchia.

On Dec. 24, 2004, Varitek became the 18th captain in club history -- the first since Jim Rice retired in 1989.

Though Varitek started making the transition from starter to backup late in 2009, Francona said several times that he was never more of a captain than last season, when he suffered a broken right foot in late June and remained an integral part of the team.

Varitek, 39, has a team record with 1,420 games played behind the plate. Entering his 15th season with the Sox, Varitek is the second-longest-tenured player on the current roster, trailing only Tim Wakefield.

He will also become the fourth-longest-tenured member of the Red Sox who has never played for another team, trailing Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams and Rice.

A three-time American League All-Star, Varitek hit .232 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 2010. He was out from July 1-Sept. 5 with the foot fracture.

The trade that brought Varitek to Boston on July 31, 1997, is regarded as one of the most one-sided in club history. Varitek and hurler Derek Lowe came to Boston from the Seattle Mariners organization in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.

Varitek is a .258 lifetime hitter in the Majors with 182 homers and 721 RBIs in 1,478 games. He holds a Major League record by catching four no-hitters. Varitek has led the AL in catcher ERA four times. His .994 fielding percentage trails Tony Pena by percentage points for the best in team history, and he won the Gold Glove Award in 2005.

Already a two-time World Series champion with the Red Sox, Varitek has a chance to add to his ring collection. Over the past week, Boston acquired two impact players in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford.

As for Varitek, his main role -- as always -- will be to help lead the pitching staff.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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