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Red Sox, Lugo: It's official

Posted by David Lefort, Boston.com Staff  December 13, 2006 09:12 AM

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The Red Sox have called a 3:30 p.m. press conference to officially announce the signing of free agent shortstop Julio Lugo to a four-year contract.

Lugo will be joined by Red Sox manager Terry Francona and assistant General Manager Jed Hoyer.

In an interview this morning on Boston sports radio station WEEI 850 AM, Lugo confirmed that his deal with the Red Sox was official.

"To tell you the truth, I had some [other] offers with more money," Lugo said this morning. "I always liked Boston, I wanted to come here, I want to play here. I love it here. This always was my first choice here. Boston was my first choice ... when I used to come here and play with Tampa, the people [were] great. The fans [were] great. I like the stadium. I like the fans here, they're loud. They drove me crazy when I was on the other side, so I want to be on their side."

Last week, Lugo agreed to a four-year, $36 million tentative deal with the Red Sox.

Lugo, known more for his bat than his glove, will be taking the place of former Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who was considered by many to be one of the best fielding shortstops in team history.

"I'm not going to be worried about anybody else," said Lugo, when asked by WEEI about following in the footsteps of Gonzalez. "I'm gonna be worried about things that I can do. I'm gonna bring what Julio Lugo can do, and I think that's going to be enough 'cause I know I'm a good player. I'm excited. I'm gonna go out there and do my best. I'm gonna show people why they picked me 'cause there's a lot of people out there they can sign."

In the middle of last season, Lugo was dealt from the Devil Rays to the Dodgers, who used him in a utilty role, plugging him at positions all over the diamond. Lugo struggled in 49 games for the Dodgers, hitting .219 with no homers and 10 RBIs.

"It was a tough situation for me, I [had] always been a starter my whole career," said Lugo about his stint with the Dodgers. "And then to come to a place where you don't play every day, you play one day, you play left field, right field, second base, third base, so I couldn't get used to it. They didn't play me every day so I just couldn't get to it. Baseball is a career where you work hard all your life. Something where you want to reach to be a starter every day that you know you're gonna come to the field and play every day. … And then from one day to another you become a utility player. And I don't think my mind was set to become a utility man yet and I just couldn't focus and let my mind to it. So it was hard for me. It was very hard for me. And I'm glad that was over."

Lugo already has a good friend on the Red Sox in designated hitter and fellow Dominican Republic native David Ortiz.

"[We're] very, very tight, yes," said Lugo. "Actually, [Ortiz is] one of the guys that almost brought me here. We [were] in touch every day on the phone. Actually we just had dinner yesterday here and I'm gonna [head] to his house right now."

Lugo isn’t without baggage. The Astros released him in 2003 after a domestic-assault charge involving his then-wife, a charge on which he was eventually cleared. Lugo was cleared the air on the issue during this morning’s interview.

"I'm gonna make it clear,” he said, “I'm gonna talk about this one [time] and that's it. This is something that happened way past. My ex-wife accused me, that I hit her. And she called the cops and all that stuff but she realized she made a mistake, she lied and then she went to court and said the truth, and I was found not guilty. That was it. That was over with.”

Lugo came to Boston a couple of days ago for his physical, along with another soon-to-be member of the Red Sox, J.D. Drew. It is not yet known whether Drew will be a part of today’s press conference.

More comments from Lugo on WEEI this morning:

  • On whether he expects Manny Ramirez to remain with the Red Sox:
    "I do. I actually do. Manny's a great player. Not only that, he's a great person besides baseball and sometimes people see him doing things that, they don't seem well, but he's a great, great person. A great human being. As a player, everybody knows who he is."

  • On his athleticism:
    "I can run well, I can jump. I can dive. There's a lot of little things. You can bunt. You can run well. If [they] need for me to do something else, I'll do it. Some other guys, like Big Papi, he can hit a lot of home runs. He's not a base stealer. Little things like that. Shortstops are supposed to be… because you have to make plays that nobody else in the field can make."

  • On his preferred spot in the batting order:
    "I'm expecting to be a leadoff [hitter]. I'm hoping to be a leadoff [hitter]. We have a tough lineup and we have a lot of guys up there that can play. With Manny and Big Papi and J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek, all those guys, for us to score runs you just have to get on base. I don't think I'm going to have to steal a lot here. They can bring you to the plate from first base. You just gotta get on."

  • More about comparisons to Gonzalez:
    "Why would I not make plays that Alex Gonzalez makes? That we have to see. I think I'm a good shortstop. I'm a good defensive shortstop and probably I'm not Alex Gonzalez but you know what, I'm Julio Lugo, and that's all I need to be."

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