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Thursday, December 12
Walker obtained for two minor leaguers

Associated Press

BOSTON -- Todd Walker became Boston's regular second baseman Thursday when he was obtained from the Cincinnati Reds in Theo Epstein's first trade as the general manager of the Red Sox.


Walker, only seven months older than the 28-year-old Epstein, replaces Rey Sanchez, who became a free agent after not being offered arbitration.

Boston gave up two minor leaguers for Walker, who has a .292 batting average in seven seasons with Minnesota, Colorado and Cincinnati. The players going to the Reds will be identified within six months and do not depend on Walker's performance in Boston, Epstein said.

ESPN's Peter Gammons reported Thursday that the players to be named are third baseman Tony Blanco and RHP Josh Thigpen.

Walker hit .299 with 11 homers in 155 games last season. An average fielder much of his career, he led NL second basemen with a .989 fielding percentage last season. He has one year left on his contract at $3.4 million in addition to $450,000 in incentive bonuses and $475,000 in award bonuses.

Epstein made the deal the day before baseball's winter meetings in Nashville and said he joked with Walker that "it's my first trade. He's got to make me look good.''

"I don't look at it as my first trade,'' Epstein said. "That would be really selfish. I just look at it as a chance for the organization to get better.''

Walker has hit leadoff, but Epstein said center fielder Johnny Damon likely would continue in that spot, although the decision will be made by manager Grady Little.

Walker is "a very good everyday player at a position of need at a reasonable cost,'' Epstein said.

Epstein was named general manager Nov. 25, replacing interim GM Mike Port. His first acquisition was pitcher Ryan Rupe, claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay.

Walker is expected to play a bigger role than Rupe with Boston after batting .290 or better in each of his last three seasons.

Last season "was the best season that I've had in the big leagues to this point,'' Walker said. "It kind of catapulted me to the point that I'm at now.''

He was comfortable in Cincinnati and surprised by the trade, but said it was "a step forward in my career.''

The Reds acquired Walker in July 2001 from Colorado with outfielder Robin Jennings for Alex Ochoa. His career high batting average is .316 in 1998 with Minnesota. He hit. 296 in 2001 and totaled 77 doubles the past two years.

The left-handed hitter thinks his ability to hit to the opposite field should result in hits off Fenway Park's left-field wall.

"I think that's going to make a huge difference in my average and how many doubles I hit,'' Walker said.

Sanchez, 35, spent one season with Boston, hitting .286 and fielding well.

The trade means infielder Freddy Sanchez, one of Boston's top prospects, will likely spend next season in the minors rather than be rushed to the majors.

Epstein said he expects to talk with all major league clubs in Nashville and still has payroll flexibility after obtaining Walker.

"His acquisition is not going to limit us in any way in fulfilling our offseason game plan,'' Epstein said. "If Todd goes out and does this year what we think he's going to do, he'd be a bargain at almost any price.

Epstein said he still wants to help the bullpen, add a starting pitcher, improve at first base and designated hitter and obtain an extra outfielder who can back up in center field.

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