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Burks headed back to Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Curt Schilling is not the only player who will be coming full circle to the Red Sox, the organization with which he began his career.

Ellis Burks, who was Boston's No. 1 draft pick in 1983 and played the first six seasons of his career with the Sox, has come to terms on a one-year major league deal to return to the club at age 39. Burks, the leading contender to be the team's righthanded DH and top righthanded pinch hitter, arrived in Boston yesterday and will undergo a physical today, his agent, Jim Turner, confirmed last night.

The Sox plan to announce Burks's signing once he passes his physical. The club also is expected to announce that former big league infielder Dale Sveum, who managed the Double A Altoona Curve, will be Boston's new third base coach, succeeding Mike Cubbage.

Burks, who was an All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder with the Sox in 1990, three years after making his big-league debut, left the team as a free agent after the 1992 season, the Sox electing not to sign him to a long-term deal because of questions regarding his back.

Burks subsequently played with the White Sox, Rockies, Giants, and Indians, Cleveland signing him to a three-year, $20 million deal in 2001 after Manny Ramirez left the Tribe to play for the Red Sox. Burks's season ended June 10 because of a nerve condition in his right elbow for which he underwent surgery. The Indians declined to exercise the $5 million option they held on his contract for the 2004 season, making Burks a free agent.

During the 2000 season, when rumors arose that the Sox were interested in reacquiring Burks, he reportedly went to the Giants and asked them not to trade him to Boston. Burks later denied that was the case.

"I enjoyed playing there, but at the time, there were a lot of issues brought up with me in Boston about my injuries," he told the Globe in 2001. "There were questions about whether I was really injured. My back was really jacked up at the time, but my credibility was questioned.

"So no, I didn't have any interest in going back. But that was just something between the guys and myself."

The Sox and Turner talked for two weeks about a deal, but another team made a late bid last week, Turner said, which caused talks with the Sox to accelerate in the last couple of days.

Burks has fully recovered from the surgery on his elbow, Turner said.

"He had bone chips that were compressing on the nerve in the elbow," Turner said. "Those chips had to be removed, and there was a transpositional procedure to move the nerve. But he saw the surgeon in Cleveland, and the doctors will tell you he is at full strength. He's hitting and has full flexibility. The elbow is not an issue in his mind.

"The doctor in Cleveland said he is at an exceptional point with the elbow, and he expects an exceptional performance."

In Burks's last full season, 2002, despite chronic knee problems that have plagued him throughout the latter stages of his career, he batted .301 with 32 home runs and 91 RBIs.

He had just 59 at-bats against lefthanders last season, but batted .322, with 3 home runs and 11 RBIs. Before the Burks deal, David McCarty was the leading candidate to be Boston's top righthanded hitter off the bench. But Burks gives new manager Terry Francona the option of sitting David Ortiz (.218 vs. lefties) and using Burks as his DH.

Burks also has an impeccable clubhouse reputation, one that almost assuredly will lead to a job with the Indians after he retires.

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