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Wednesday, December 18
Timlin, infielder Jackson agree to deals with Boston

Associated Press

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is having an active first month on the job.

Boston agreed Wednesday to a $1.85 million, one-year contracts with right-handed reliever Mike Timlin and a $625,000, one-year deal with utility infielder Damian Jackson.

Less than a month after becoming general manager and less than a month before turning 29, Epstein has been active in reshaping Boston's roster. The Red Sox want to add a starting pitcher and may retain Cliff Floyd if he chooses arbitration rather than sign elsewhere as a free agent.

Last weekend at the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., Epstein traded with Philadelphia for Jeremy Giambi, who can play first base, the outfield or designated hitter. On Tuesday, Giambi agreed to a $2 million, one-year contract.

On Wednesday he signed Timlin, who spent last season with St. Louis and Philadelphia, and Jackson, who was with Detroit.

Timlin, coming off a $16 million, four-year contract, was first approached by interim general manager Mike Port before Epstein took his job Nov. 25. Port remains with the team as one of Epstein's assistants.

"Mike Port called me. He said he didn't know what would happen with his job, but that the team was interested,'' said David Sloane, Timlin's agent, said Wednesday.

Timlin had 31 saves with Toronto in 1966 and 27 with Baltimore in 1999. But the last three seasons, with Baltimore, St. Louis and Philadelphia, he rarely was used as a closer.

That job opened up when Boston chose not to keep Ugueth Urbina.

The Red Sox also could use Alan Embree and Bobby Howry in what they told Sloane could be a "three-headed closer.''

Timlin, 36, wouldn't mind having that job himself in his 13th major league season.

He started last season with St. Louis, then went to Philadelphia in the trade for third baseman Scott Rolen on July 29. His combined record was 4-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 72 games with no saves.

Besides Urbina, at least two relievers who began last season in Boston's bullpen are no longer in that role. Rich Garces was released and Tim Wakefield is in the starting rotation.

"Several teams were interested and it was a matter of what role they wanted to use Mike in,'' Sloane said. "That was the overriding consideration, to be with a contender and be used in a role he wants.''

Timlin's contract includes $950,000 in performance bonuses based on the number of games he finishes.

Timlin has a career record of 45-51 with a 3.56 ERA and 114 saves in 664 games for Toronto, Seattle, Baltimore, St. Louis and Philadelphia. He has made just four starts.

Jackson, whose deal isn't guaranteed, was primarily a second baseman last season. He's played every position except catcher, first base and pitcher.

Epstein thinks Jackson's versatility and speed will add choices for manager Grady Little.

"Damian Jackson complements our roster, he does some things we don't do very well, he's very athletic, very fast,'' he said. "We want to give Grady a couple of speed options off the bench. Last year, he didn't really have anyone off the bench as a pinch runner.''

Jackson, 29, hit .257 with 12 stolen bases in 81 games for Detroit. In 1999 and 2000 with San Diego, he played mostly shortstop, beginning the 2000 season as the starter at that spot.

He figures to contend for the backup positions behind Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop and newly acquired Todd Walker at second. Boston also has utility infielder Lou Merloni.

His career batting average is .245 with 21 homers in 512 games, but his greatest assets are his speed and versatility.

Jackson has 101 stolen bases in 127 attempts during his career, with a high of 34 steals with San Diego in 1999, most among NL rookies.

His first major league action came in 1996 in five games with Cleveland. He played for Cincinnati in 1997 and 1998 and San Diego the next three years.

Epstein said there were no new developments in the pursuit of Floyd, who also is talking with the Yankees.

"I talked with his agent last night and we will probably touch base tonight,'' Epstein said.

The Red Sox also made former NL MVP Jeff Kent an offer before they found out the second baseman agreed Wednesday to an $18.2 million, two-year contract with Houston. Epstein said he wasn't surprised Kent opted for Houston because he has a ranch in Texas.

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