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Wednesday, January 29
Updated: March 13, 3:59 PM ET
 
Red Sox might try to sign ace to new deal during year

Associated Press

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox may make an exception to their policy of no in-season contract negotiations for Pedro Martinez.

Pedro Martinez
Martinez

Martinez is signed through the 2003 season with a club option for 2004 but has said he would become a free agent after that if the team doesn't exercise the option before spring training starting next month.

"We have a policy of trying to avoid negotiations during the season,'' Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said Wednesday, "but if you're talking about our exceptional players, they call for exceptional treatment.''

Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is under contract for $15 million in 2003, and the team holds a $17.5 million option for 2004. Last season, he led the AL with a 2.26 ERA and 239 strikeouts and was 20-4.

Martinez took his stand on the option late last season, but general manager Theo Epstein said Wednesday he hasn't told that directly to the club.

"He's very honest and says what's on his mind,'' Epstein said. "We look forward to an open, honest exchange with him. We're not afraid of the situation. He's going to know exactly where we stand and how we feel and it's nice to know exactly where he stands.

"We've had a very productive player-club relationship and I see that lasting well into the future.''

The Red Sox also have control of shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, a two-time AL batting champion, for the next two years. His contract expires at the end of the 2004 season.

Epstein said club officials probably would talk with Martinez and Garciaparra in the near future.

"If contractual status becomes a concern for them (and) they want to express it to us, we'll always listen, tell them exactly how we feel,'' Epstein said.

The current Red Sox roster is essentially the one that will go to spring training, although Epstein said, "we're still doing some tweaking on the bench.''

He had no new information on Kevin Millar, who signed a contract with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan's Central League. The Red Sox, who then claimed him off waivers, believe they still can get him if his contract with Chunichi wasn't properly executed.

The outfielder-first baseman, who played with Florida last year, has said he wants to play for Boston. But the Red Sox must wait to see if he can get out of his contract.

Although Epstein missed out on Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, who went to the New York Yankees, and starter Bartolo Colon, traded from Montreal to the Chicago White Sox, he said he was pleased with his offseason moves.

After being named the youngest general manager in baseball history Nov. 25, his three goals were to strengthen the lineup and improve the bullpen and bench. He said he accomplished all of them.

"There's no easy out. We think we're going to have a chance to score 900 runs,'' an average of more than five per game, Epstein said.

He has added first baseman David Ortiz and outfielder Jeremy Giambi, who both figure in the designated hitter picture. He also obtained Todd Walker to play second base and Bill Mueller for third. The Red Sox still have third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, an all-star last season who has been on the trading block.

Epstein defended the decision to go without a traditional closer. The best reliever, he said, "will be used to get the most critical outs, whether that's in the ninth inning or the seventh inning.''

Epstein has shied away from long-term deals, like the eight-year, $160 million contract for Manny Ramirez that has six seasons left. That approach gives the team flexibility to make more moves.

"We're one of the few teams that can take on money to really improve the club in June or July,'' he said. "We now have players under control for one and two years and we don't have these long albatross contracts. So we should be well positioned throughout baseball for the next five years to really do some damage.''




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