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Monday, April 7
Updated: April 8, 2:13 PM ET
Salary is single-season highest for a pitcher

Associated Press

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox picked up Pedro Martinez's $17.5 million contract option early after deciding that keeping him happy was worth the risk he would get hurt.

Highest pitcher salaries
Player Year(s) Average
Martinez, Bos. 2004 $17.5M
Johnson, Ari. '03-'04 $16.5M
Clemens, NYY '01-'02 $15.45M
Hampton, Atl. '01-'08 $15.125M
Brown, LA '99-'05 $15M
Mussina, NYY '01-'06 $14.75M
Maddux, Atl. 2003 $14.75M
Johnson, Ari. '99-'02 $13.1M
Park, Tex. '02-'06 $13M
Martinez, Bos. '98-'03 $12.5M
Cone, NYY 2000 $12M

"I am thankful and glad that they picked up the option," Martinez said Monday after the team exercised an option for the 2004 season seven months before a Nov. 5 deadline.

"I'm also thankful that we both left the door open for negotiations in November after the season. Hopefully, then we can get something done," he said in a statement released by the team. "I am glad that it's over. Now I want to focus on baseball."

The 31-year-old Martinez is 0-0 with a 0.60 ERA this season after two stellar starts that were squandered by the bullpen. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is second in the AL with 14 strikeouts.

Martinez was 20-4 and led the AL with a 2.26 ERA last season while staying off the disabled list for the first time in four seasons. But with the Red Sox out of the race, he skipped his final start to protect his arm -- a decision that might have cost him a fourth Cy Young. He finished second to Barry Zito.

Although both sides have always agreed that a healthy Martinez would be a bargain -- even with the highest single-season salary for a pitcher in baseball history -- the Red Sox had delayed their decision for fear that his right shoulder would act up. Martinez had lobbied to settle things before the season instead of waiting for the Nov. 5 deadline -- even threatening to leave after his contract was up to pitch for another team.

After negotiations in spring training failed to fold the option into a longer deal, the team decided it was worth the risk of injury to have Martinez's mind clear of distractions during the season. The decision guarantees Martinez an additional $15 million -- the deal had a $2.5 million buyout.

"We essentially ran out of time on it," team president Larry Lucchino said. "We made various assessments about the wisdom of doing this and we concluded it was the right course of action. We were willing to take this step to give us and Pedro certainty. We've got a satisfied and focused Pedro Martinez."

Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, did not return calls seeking comment.

The Red Sox acquired Martinez from the salary-dumping Montreal Expos in 1998 and signed him to a six-year contract guaranteeing $75 million. With bonuses and the option, it has become a seven-year deal worth more than $91 million, with a 2004 salary that surpassed Randy Johnson's 2004-2005 average of $16.5 million.

Negotiations on an extension beyond next season will wait until after the summer, adhering to a team and personal policy, Lucchino said.

"My experience tells me that all of us are better focusing on the playing field," he said. "Our mutual goal (is) that Pedro Martinez complete his career as a member of the Boston Red Sox."

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