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Saturday, June 2
New Sox? Boston reportedly interested in Wells news services

David Wells

TORONTO -- It has never been a question of whether the Boston Red Sox had an XXXL-sized uniform for David Wells.

The issue, instead, is whether the Red Sox are willing to make a $10 million investment in a 38-year-old pitcher of uncertain health and combustible temperament, while surrendering the chunk of their future the White Sox will demand in return: a position player such as first baseman-outfielder Dernell Stenson, packaged with one of two young pitchers, Tomo Ohka or Paxton Crawford.

That question has moved beyond the speculative stage. According to a story in Saturday's Boston Globe, the Red Sox and Chicago White Sox have discussed a Wells deal with sufficient enthusiasm on both sides that Chicago dispatched former general manager Ron Schueler, now a special assistant to owner Jerry Reinsdorf, to follow the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox for the last several days while they were playing in Richmond, Va.

And the Red Sox will be watching with more than the usual interest Saturday night in Chicago, when Wells starts after missing his scheduled turn this week with a strained groin.

"The Red Sox are definitely looking at him, but Chicago is asking a lot," one source with knowledge of the Sox-Sox talks told the newspaper, indicating he didn't expect any deal to happen overnight.

It wasn't clear whether the Sox will dispatch a scout to Comiskey Park for Saturday's game. Red Sox GM Dan Duquette is a big believer in video scouting, a role served by front-office aide Tom Moore. But it is becoming increasingly apparent the Red Sox are on a short list for Wells' services, a list that once included the New York Mets until the White Sox insisted on outfield prospect Alex Escobar in return.

The Mets are perilously close to noncontender status and leaving them with little incentive to add Wells. The Philadelphia Phillies, however, are headed in the other direction and have signaled their interest to the White Sox, according to the Globe. St. Louis Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty says his team has no interest, but Mark McGwire is a Wells pal, and with Andy Benes ineffective and Rick Ankiel regressing all the way back to extended spring training, the Cardinals may have to reconsider.

"The Yankees are making noises about getting in it," said one source, "partly just to keep Boston from getting him."

Wells has impressed no one with his performance this season. After winning 20 games for the Blue Jays last season, Wells is 3-5 with a 4.54 ERA, 1-3 with a 6.03 ERA in five May starts. He also created a mess in the White Sox clubhouse with some ill-advised remarks on his radio show about Frank Thomas' willingness to play hurt, when it turned out that Thomas had a season-ending injury to his triceps muscle.

Wells also has two herniated disks in his back that could blow at any time. And not least of all, there are the financial considerations. Wells has an $8 million base to pitch this season, with an additional $750,000 in easily reachable incentives. There is a club option for $10 million for next season, with a guaranteed $1.25 million buyout if the option is not picked up. Thus, any team buying into the Boomer is out $10 million, and there is also his published threat to retire if the team that gets him doesn't exercise his option before the end of the season.

Yet there is this to consider: Besides giving the Red Sox the lefthanded starter they don't have, Wells has a lifetime record of 16-8 and 3.05 ERA against the Yankees, and a glittery 28-9 record in games he's pitched in Yankee Stadium. And as maddening as it is to the employers who give him millions and the ticket-buying public that pays his way, Wells has a history of showing much more interest in doing his job when pitching for a contender than a team already out of it.

Reinsdorf has given White Sox GM Kenny Williams a mandate to shed salary, which is why Williams is not only trying to jettison Wells, but is shopping such players as third baseman Herbert Perry, shortstop Royce Clayton, and outfielder Chris Singleton, too.

With the White Sox a motivated seller, it is up to Duquette to decide whether to buy.

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