Important note: Wakefield is not going to be a reliever ever again. Wakefield is not going to be a reliever ever again. Wakefield is not going to be a reliever ever again. Wakefield !=reliever. Wakefield + Reliever = not in same sentence. Never again. Never again. Never again. Have I made this point clear enough? His back, at this age, is best-suited to the predictable rigors that go along with being a starting pitcher. This is not news. Holy f. I've gone overboard.
So, our long national nightmare is over. Or something along those lines. I've finally digested the news that Varitek will be back with the Sox, and most likely getting the bulk of the playing time behind the plate barring another acquisition. But just how much does the "bulk" of the playing time consist of? It really depends on whom is made his backup.
Scenario 1: Josh Bard.
There are actually a couple of sub-scenarios here. One: Bard proves able to catch Wakefield despite previous results. Two: Bard somehow wins the backup job anyway despite being unable to catch Wake. Bard is probably the only player among the three possible backups that COULD push Tek into more of a straight platoon, especially if he can't catch Wake. If Tek has to catch Wake, the pressure will be on to lighten his overall workload, which could lead to an almost 50-50 split of playing time. If he's able to catch Wake, he will probably be given one additional starter to catch for (assuming an ideal 5-man rotation over the whole season. Yeah. I can f'n dream, right?), probably Brad Penny to begin with. So a 60-40 split. I don't know how much this will do, in the end, for Tek's hitting woes, but it should certainly do a good bit to keep both healthy.
Scenario 2: George Kottaras.
Defensively, Kottaras is not a polished product by any means. He does, however, have experience catching knucklers and no minor league options remaining. The Sox will give him every opportunity to catch for Wake and Zink during Spring Training, and evaluate whether he could handle 25-30 big league starts catching the knuckleball. Kottaras's left-handed bat could be a minor asset in the bigs, with patience and power being his main positive qualities. Throwing runners out is never much of a concern with Wake anyway, so his shortcomings there aren't a big deal. The biggest shortcoming to Kottaras winning the backup job would be that he would get very sporadic playing time beyond Wake's starts. Varitek would probably get near 80% of the overall playing time and plate appearances. Decide for yourself whether that's a good thing or not. For me, it isn't.
Scenario 3: Dusty Brown.
Pretty much on the outside looking in, Brown would have to put on a serious show in Spring Training to be considered. That being said, let's look at the positives if he does. It would probably mean he won the Catch-a-Wake contest, and he's the most likely of all 4 entrants to keep the running game honest while doing so. He's also been with the organization long enough and has the defensive chops to catch another pitcher, especially if Buchholz is able to win a job. Thus, we'd again probably have a 60-40 arrangement, with the potential for more PT for Brown if he can hit ML pitching. But that's the question. Brown might be the least able of all 4 catchers, no matter what we might want to believe about his hitting abilities. If the Sox had faith in his ability to hit ML pitching, we probably wouldn't have heard as many stories about the Sox pursuing other teams' catching prospects. He's probably also going to get the least playing time in the Spring, so he'd really have to make those opportunities count.
So the question is, who wins?