GM Epstein, Red Sox near agreement on contract extension

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is nearing an agreement for a contract extension, team owner John Henry said Tuesday.

Epstein, who left Boston for nearly three months after his previous contract expired at the end of October 2005, currently has a three-year deal that expires at the end of next month.

"We are not done but we expect to have an announcement very soon," Henry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "I have asked all involved not to comment until this is done."

Boston has won two of the last four World Series championships, and went into Tuesday night in a virtual tie with Tampa Bay for the AL East lead.

"I certainly can't imagine being here without Theo. It should get done. He's done a great job," Francona said. "I'm excited it's getting to that point. ... When things get going here rough against us, I know one guy I can go talk to, and I appreciate that."

Earlier Tuesday, The Boston Globe reported on its Web site that Epstein had agreed to an extension.

"I got a little ahead of where we are today in commenting on what have been refreshingly private negotiations," Henry said in a later e-mail to the AP.

Nearly three years ago, Epstein left at the end of his contract after an internal squabble involving team president Larry Lucchino that the team never fully explained. He left Fenway Park in a gorilla suit on Halloween to avoid the media waiting outside.

But in January 2006, after Epstein and Lucchino sorted out their differences, the team announced that Epstein would return as general manager.