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Agent: Call to be made by Johnson

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Agent Alan Nero sat in the stands at McCoy Stadium for the Triple A All-Star Game last night, virtually undisturbed. It was one of the most peaceful moments he's had the past few days.

Nero, a native Rhode Islander in town to watch some of his clients, also represents Randy Johnson, the name on the minds of all of Red Sox Nation.

The phone rang, and wouldn't you know it, Sox general manager Theo Epstein was on the other end. Nero explained where he was and told Epstein he'd call him later.

Nero is certainly privy to a lot of information concerning potential trade talks between the Arizona Diamondbacks and other teams -- most notably the Sox, Yankees, Angels, and Mets -- concerning the 40-year-old lefthander.

But he also knows his client will have the final say when and if a deal is presented.

Nero made it clear each team will give its best shot, and when and if the Diamondbacks agree to a deal, Johnson will then be asked whether he will accept a trade to that team.

While Nero wouldn't comment on where Boston ranks on Johnson's list of possible destinations, other sources familiar with the deal indicated yesterday he'd prefer to go to the Yankees, followed by the Angels. Nero wouldn't comment on that information, but he did indicate he felt because of the complexity of the situation, it will take a while to get it all sorted out, perhaps close to the July 31 trading deadline. Nero also believes there is a strong possibility Johnson will remain with the Diamondbacks.

"If the teams close a trade and Randy doesn't approve it, then it's back to square one," Nero said.

The Red Sox are supposedly trying to piece together a side deal that would give them the prospects to send to the Diamondbacks. The hot rumor is that the Sox would deal Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs for prospects, and then turn them over to the Diamondbacks for Johnson.

Would Johnson approve a trade to Boston? Reading the tea leaves, it appears the Red Sox would be a hard sell.

"I think you've heard what Randy had to say," said Nero. "He wants to play for a contender. He wants a deal that will help the Diamondbacks set their team up because he feels a loyalty to them. So many things could happen, and don't rule out Randy staying in Arizona. It just depends."

Nero said he was surprised his client left open the possibility of a deal. Nero felt Johnson was happy in Arizona, but the team losing has taken its toll, and the likelihood the Diamondbacks will be rebuilding for the foreseeable future is a factor.

Nero also said Johnson has never indicated that a contract extension has to be part of approving a deal. When asked if an extension would sway Johnson to going to one team over another, Nero said, "Anything is possible. But Randy wants to go somewhere where it's most likely he will win. That's what he's in this for."

Nero, who will return to his suburban Chicago office today, enjoyed the Triple A All-Star festivities, culminating with last night's game. While the appearance of Nero triggered talk of Johnson, the event was about the All-Stars and paying tribute to longtime Pawtucket Red Sox owner Ben Mondor.

"We appreciate and respect the effort and the result of the PawSox and the business community to put on this extraordinary three-day event," said senior advisor Jeremy Kapstein, who represented Red Sox ownership. "I think when you think of Ben Mondor you think of a pioneer in minor league baseball, taking it out of bankruptcy and making it a model for so many other minor league and major league franchises around the country. Some would say this is the apex of Ben's career, but this is just what Ben was all about every day he owned the Pawtucket Red Sox."

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