Red Sox Sign Varitek

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BOSTON (AP) - The Red Sox made official Friday what had been
agreed to a week earlier: Jason Varitek, their catcher and captain, is returning for a 13th season.

The contract includes a $5 million salary this year and for 2010 a player option of $3 million and a team option of $5 million.

Varitek hit .220 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs last year, then became a free agent after completing a $40 million, four-year contract with Boston. He had declined the team's offer of arbitration in early December.

Boston cleared a roster spot by sending first baseman-outfielder Jeff Bailey outright to Triple-A Pawtucket. Bailey refused the assignment and elected free agency, then agreed to a minor league contract. He hit .280 with two homers and six RBIs in 50 at bats with Boston last year.

The Red Sox hope the switch-hitting Varitek, who turns 37 on April 11, can rebound from a dismal season in which he batted a career-low .220 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 131 games. He is highly valued by pitchers for his ability to handle them and was selected for his third AL All-Star team last year.

After completing a $40 million, four-year contract, Varitek declined the team's offer of arbitration in December. Had he accepted, he almost certainly would have earned more than $5 million in 2009.

If he plays under the player option, he could earn an additional $2 million in 2010 based on games started: $400,000 each for 80, 90, 100, 110 and 120 games.

Boston's only other catcher with considerable major league experience is Josh Bard, signed as a free agent after spending the last three seasons with San Diego. He began the 2006 season with the Red Sox, who obtained him from Cleveland in an offseason trade, but played just seven games before being traded to the Padres after having problems catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball.

Varitek is the Red Sox career leader in games at catcher with 1,273. Carlton Fisk, who also played with the Chicago White Sox, is second with 990 games with Boston. Varitek was obtained on July 31, 1997, in one of the most lopsided trades in Red Sox history - they also acquired pitcher Derek Lowe from Seattle for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-06-09 1658EST