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John Henry e-mails back on season

Press "send." Wait 2 hours 4 minutes. And there, in the e-mail inbox, sits a response to all 47 questions posed to John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox.

Henry has settled upon e-mail as his preferred means of communication for an interview in which little was off-limits. Henry gave candid answers, especially when the topic of Curt Schilling's blog came up, as the owner revealed that the pitcher isn't the only member of the Red Sox organization who has taken to the Internet.

That's right. Henry has his own blog, which "just hasn't reached the surface yet by design." (When asked for the domain name, Henry responded with a good-natured, "Not on your life!!")

His feelings on the Red Sox season, the team's payroll ceiling, and the potential for bringing Roger Clemens back ("a very real possibility") and re-signing Schilling ("I would be very surprised if we can't get something done") were expressed in a wide-ranging interview that spanned multiple e-mails days before the season opens in Kansas City tomorrow.

That includes queries on the man of the season, Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose arrival has trumped most everything (other than that World Series thing) since Henry took over the franchise.

"The most surprising aspect has been how much the signing of this one man has seemed to uplift our entire region," Henry wrote. "It is remarkable and a great thing. He seems to be comfortable with all of the expectations. I imagine this is because the expectations he places on himself are so much larger.

"I've tried to stay away [this spring] because he has so many demands on him. I don't want to add to that. It's somewhat the same with Theo [Epstein]. It would be easy and fun to hang out with the baseball operations staff during the season, but they have enough going on without me looming! Matsuzakasan is just as remarkable a person as he is a pitcher."

Well-compensated, too.

But while Matsuzaka has commanded most of the headlines, especially in Japan, his arrival wasn't the only story in a spring training in which Manny Ramírez was going to show up late, then showed up early, Jonathan Papelbon returned to his role as closer, and Schilling tried to work out an extension and didn't get it done.

And Red Sox Nation was introduced to a new way of getting news: Schilling's blog.

On the site, 38pitches.com, Schilling was the first to confirm -- not long after it had been reported by ESPN -- that Papelbon was being moved from the rotation to the back end of the bullpen. It's a whole new world of news dissemination, one that Henry seems to welcome.

"Curt has been effectively blogging on the Internet for some time," Henry wrote. "Now he has an official one. He sent an apology about the timing of the Papelbon story, but he didn't need to. He didn't purposely cause a stir. We don't tell him what he can say. He's a damned good source for news and opinion!"

So, if not a contract for next season, at least Schilling has the support of the owner. And despite Schilling's announcement that talks were over, that he would explore free agency at the end of the season, Henry believes a move won't be imminent.

"Both sides want to see him in a Red Sox uniform next year," Henry wrote. "We're all clear on that. He wanted to avoid the distraction. We wanted to wait. But, as I said, we all want the same thing next year.

"Of course, I was the one most surprised when Theo didn't sign his contract initially, but I would be very surprised if we can't get something done."

With Schilling on board for this season, plus Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Papelbon, and the resident sluggers (David Ortiz and Ramírez) -- oh, and that payroll -- Henry hopes that things end differently than they did last year, with a slip to third place in the American League East and golf in October instead of baseball.

"It is probably unrealistic to expect to make the playoffs every year," Henry wrote. "We talk about 80% of the time as a goal but the goal is really every year. I consider the year to be a failure if we don't make the playoffs. Last year was a failure on our part. We didn't have enough depth and we had too many injuries. I've never seen a first-place team (what -- August 1?) collapse like that. But we were scotch-taped together prior to that."

With $103 million invested in the signing of Matsuzaka, plus those added expenses of J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, and a refashioned bullpen, the Red Sox payroll soared into the region of $160 million, not far from what the Yankees will shell out for their star-laden lineup. It was a bit surprising, given the comments made last season by general manager Epstein regarding the ability of the Red Sox to compete with the Yankees in financial terms -- essentially that they couldn't.

But Henry wrote that those comments pertained to the trade deadline last season, rather than the future of the Red Sox.

"We continue to narrow the revenue gap with the Yankees, but they still have 57,000 seats and they are not having a hard time selling them," he wrote. "I began saying internally last August that we needed to close the payroll gap going forward and we have somewhat, but not only is it incredibly expensive, it is a losing battle because they are moving into a new ballpark in 2009.

"MLB is determined to limit our baseball revenues. They are determined to take more and more. Incredibly they now seem determined to invade local media markets. We have no choice but to look outside of baseball to grow our overall enterprise and business revenues, hence the move into NASCAR where revenue sharing does not exist."

So Henry will head to Kansas City tomorrow, finally ready for spring training to end, ready for this season of great expectations to begin. But before he hits Kauffman Stadium and sees what $160 million has bought him and his partners, there was one final detail to explore. With all that money already committed to the team, would there be any room for the one name Bostonians would like to hear over the PA system at Fenway this summer?

Will there be space for Roger Clemens?

"It's the perfect conclusion to his career," Henry wrote. "The return to Boston to fight for a final world championship. This is more than a dream scenario; it's a dream scenario that is a very real possibility.

"Somewhere in California right now Tom [Werner] is writing the script. [CEO] Larry [Lucchino] and Theo are executing it. And my partners -- all of them who never get any public credit -- are going to be the ones who make it possible.

"But if he comes, it will be for one reason -- it will be for the fans who gave him a standing ovation last time he pitched at Fenway -- the fans of New England who love the game and adored him even when he wore a Yankee uniform."

For a complete transcript of the Henry Q & A, visit boston.com/globe.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com

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