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Wells pulls trade request, likely to retire after 2006

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox left-hander David Wells
rescinded his trade request and said Sunday there was a "99.9
percent" chance he would retire after the upcoming season, his
19th in the majors.

Rather than prolong the uncertainty, Wells figured that he could
live with the lack of privacy in Boston for one more season and
that he and his family could handle being away from their San
Diego-area home.

Wells told general manager Theo Epstein about his change of
heart Saturday.

"I just told him, `Listen, plan on me going north, dude.' I
said I want to stay. I said I think it will be fine," Wells said.
"He was all smiles and that was that."

But Wells' recounting might be "overly dramatic," Epstein
said.

"It's making more of it than it was," said Epstein, who was
under no obligation to trade Wells, entering the final year of his
two-year contract. "It's been sort of a non-issue all along. I'm
glad he feels good about staying."

At least two factors were working against the club in trade
talks: Wells underwent offseason knee surgery and still must show
he's healthy, and teams want to look at their younger pitchers
before making a deal for a 42-year-old who wants to play only one
more year.

Wells, who went 15-7 last season, is part of a deep starting
corps that includes Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield,
Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo. Jon Papelbon also can start.

"We'll put it together the way we think is proper," manager
Terry Francona said, "and if David is excited to be a part of
that, that's certainly exciting for us."

Part of that excitement is based on Wells' view of the team's
potential.

"I think we're a better team this year than we were last year"
when the Red Sox won the AL wild card but were swept in the
division series by the Chicago White Sox, Wells said. "So if
you're going to go out on top, you might as well do it with a team
that you feel good with and this is it.

"I just don't plan on playing past this," he said. "It's 99.9
percent sure."

Left fielder Manny Ramirez also requested a trade in the
offseason and reported to camp one day after the Feb. 28 mandatory
reporting date with the team's permission. His agent, Greg Genske,
said Ramirez has an open mind if the team wants to trade him.
Ramirez can reject any deal because he is a 10-year veteran who
spent the last five seasons with the same team.

Wells said he enjoyed pitching in Boston last season, his first
with the team, and likes the passion of the fans. He's just not
crazy about having them ask for autographs or take his picture when
he tries to go out to shop or eat.

The lack of privacy "is the worst I've ever seen," said Wells,
who has pitched with seven other teams but said he only went out
after games three times last season. "I almost got in a fight on
one of those times because ... I wouldn't take a picture with
(someone) or whatever.

"They're great fans, but anywhere you go they want a piece of
you. They want to talk shop," he said. "I love Boston. This team
is great. Everything about it, it's unbelievable. It's just tough
outside the park, but hey, we'll get through that."

Wells told the 25-year-old Beckett, traded from Florida in the
offseason, that he would be working with an outstanding catcher,
Jason Varitek.

"I told Josh that's going to be the biggest thing for you is
having a good catcher back there," Wells said. "If you stay in
the game six innings you're going to win 20 games, but if you're a
night prowler, good luck, you're not going to be prowling. You're
going to be crawling back home."

Wells has won at least 11 games and pitched at least 184 innings
in 10 of the last 11 seasons.

This year his base salary is $2.5 million with additional pay
for each start more than 10 to a maximum of $5 million extra if he
makes at least 30 starts.

The club didn't guarantee that bonus money, "but it would be
nice," he said. "I've never reconstructed my contract, ever."

Epstein said the team won't restructure the deal.

Wells had offseason surgery on his right knee and said he spent
four to six weeks on crutches or in a wheelchair. He said his arm
feels fine and, barring a setback to his knee, he should be ready
by opening day on April 3. Schilling probably would start.

Wells plans to throw his third and final bullpen session Monday,
then pitch batting practice before making his first exhibition
start, probably March 12, 13 or 14.

"I feel great," he said.

Now that he's decided to stay with Boston, he can concentrate on
strengthening his knee. Varitek, the team's respected captain, also
contributed to his decision.

"Just the way 'Tek looked at me. He goes, 'We need to talk.' We
didn't really get a chance to talk, but, knowing 'Tek and talking
to him a lot last year, I kind of had an idea what was going
through his mind," Wells said. "That vibe I got from him, whoa,
pretty deep."

Wells has a wife and two school-age children who told him "we
can tough it out" for one more season, he said.

Epstein was happy after a turbulent offseason in which he
stepped down on Oct. 31 and returned Jan. 24 after aspects of his
troublesome relationship with president Larry Lucchino were
addressed.

"He had a smile from ear to ear. It took a lot of pressure off
him," Wells said. "His eyes got real big. He went, `Wow, that's
great.' He was happy as can be.

"Instead of trying to make a mess out of the whole situation, I
think it's best that you just deal with it, go in with good
thoughts and good goals and try to help this team win a
championship."