Clock is Ticking for Varitek

The Boston Red Sox have given catcher Jason Varitek until Friday to accept or reject a one-year, $5 million contract offer with options for 2010.

A person familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday the Red Sox, who begin spring training on Feb. 12 when pitchers and catchers report, want an answer by Friday. The person disclosed the deadline and details of the offer on condition of anonymity because the team does not publicly discuss negotiations. first reported that the offer was $5 million for 2009 with a $5 million club option or a $3 million player option for 2010 and that the team had set a deadline. The Web site did not specify the date of the deadline.

Varitek, a two-time All-Star who turns 37 on April 11, is coming off the worst of his 11 seasons with the Red Sox. In 131 games, he hit .220 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs.

The Red Sox currently have one catcher, Josh Bard, who signed a non-guaranteed, one-year contract as a free agent. General manager Theo Epstein said one possibility for a second catcher was George Kottaras or Dusty Brown, who both played at Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

If Varitek does not sign with the Red Sox, they could seek a trade for a young catcher. The switch-hitter known for his ability to handle pitchers has not drawn much interest from other teams after completing a four-year, $40 million contract.

"I really don't have anything to say," Scott Boras, Varitek's agent, said after the Friday deadline was disclosed.

The Red Sox have set deadlines with other Boras clients, including pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka before the 2007 season and free agent Mark Teixeira before the first baseman signed with the New York Yankees last month.

Varitek declined the Red Sox offer to go to arbitration. The team decreased his desirability to other clubs because the offer of arbitration requires a club to give up a draft choice if it signs Varitek.

Varitek has spent his entire major league career with Boston, which obtained him and pitcher Derek Lowe from Seattle for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb on July 31, 1997.

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