While new backup first baseman Sean Casey was being introduced at Fenway Park yesterday, the Red Sox were busy making a signing that could be a harbinger of another move. For their outfield, which already contains Manny Ramírez, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Coco Crisp, the Sox will throw into the mix Bobby Kielty, the switch-hitting reserve who joined them last August and hit a pinch-hit home run in the clinching game of the World Series.
Kielty, who spent part of yesterday in a dentist's chair, had been on hold all winter, waiting to see whether the Sox would trade Ellsbury or Crisp in a Johan Santana deal. Santana went to the Mets, but the Sox yesterday informed Kielty that they're bringing him back anyway - suggesting that a trade involving a center fielder remains a good possibility. Crisp, who was supplanted as a starter in the American League Championship Series by the rookie Ellsbury and remained on the bench in the World Series, would figure to be the more likely to go.
Kielty's deal does not assure him of a spot on the major league roster. He agreed to a one-year, nonguaranteed deal for $800,000, with incentives worth an additional $300,000. He said he had similar nonroster offers from other clubs, but was willing to wait for the Sox.
"I wanted to go to Boston because I think that's the best fit," said Kielty. "That's why I decided to come here, because I feel I'll get my at-bats. I think I'll get a lot of righthanded at-bats against lefthanded pitchers. Things can happen, no doubt about it."
Kielty had knee and calf injuries that led to his release by Oakland last summer. He signed with the Sox in early August, but ran into the low right-field wall and experienced lower back pain for much of the rest of the season, limiting him to 11 starts, mostly in place of Drew in right. He said yesterday that he is not only fully healthy but "leaner and lighter. I feel a lot more athletic and nimble. You'll see."
Crisp is affordable ($10.5 million over the next two seasons), and there will be teams who need a center fielder before Opening Day. One of those could be the Twins, even though they didn't bite in the Santana talks with Boston. The Rangers, Athletics, and Cubs also have young center fielders and might want to upgrade.
As for Casey, it was a quick in-and-out visit yesterday, with flights in the morning and evening, and a physical and apartment shopping in between. With his one-year, $800,000 deal finalized, Casey will take a bench position for the first time in his career, though he also took a back seat when Detroit shifted Carlos Guillen to first base last season. That experience, he said, factored into his decision to sign with Boston, where he will give Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell a rest and appear as a lefty off the bench.
Though Casey had never played for manager Terry Francona, he said the two have built a rapport over the years, another reason he signed with Boston. Casey remembered having a conversation with Francona about 10 years ago in which Francona said he would one day be on his team.
The first baseman wore No. 21 last season with the Tigers but won't be taking it here; it has gone unassigned since Roger Clemens left Boston in 1996. Instead, he'll turn back to his high school number, taking over the No. 22 last worn by Wily Mo Peña.
"That really put a different perspective on baseball for me, getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series," Casey said of his experiences in Detroit. "I think that's what it's all about.
"It's all about getting back there and winning a championship. We were so close there in 2006, but to have that feeling that we had, going through the playoffs, that was the first time in my career I was like, 'This is what people feel. This is what the Red Sox and the Yankees, the teams that get to the postseason a lot, and the Braves, this is what they feel. This is what it's all about.'
"It's all about winning."
The Red Sox signed two players to minor league contracts, righthanded pitcher Matt Miller and infielder Junior Spivey. Miller spent most of last season with Triple A Buffalo, appearing in two games for Cleveland. Spivey signed with Boston last August, and spent 25 games with Pawtucket in 2007. He has batted .270 with 48 home runs and 201 RBIs over his career with Arizona, Milwaukee, and Washington.