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Casey to Sox in one-year deal

Posted by Gordon Edes, Globe Staff  February 1, 2008 12:50 PM

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The Red Sox today agreed to one-year, $800,000 deal with lefthanded hitting first baseman Sean Casey, pending a physical.

Casey will serve primarily in a backup role to Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. Casey is known as "the mayor" around the major leagues because of his outgoing personality.

The Sox see the veteran Casey as someone who will embrace the backup role. The 33-year-old first baseman is a very popular and enthusiastic player and considered an outstanding clubhouse influence.

Casey is a career .301 hitter in 11 major league seasons. He hit. 296 in 143 games with the Tigers last season. He spent time with both the Tigers and Pirates in 2006 before returning to the Detroit for the entire 2007 season.

Read more about Casey and his efforts to help a local priest fight hunger in Lawrence in this 2005 story.

The Red Sox had been seeking a left-handed bat to come off the bench after letting lefty first baseman-outfielder Eric Hinske become a free agent after last season. They offered a contract to outfielder-first baseman Brad Wilkerson, but he agreed to terms with Seattle on Thursday, preferring a chance to play regularly.

Casey, whose contract is not guaranteed, hit .296 with four homers, 30 doubles and 54 RBIs in 143 games for Detroit last season. An excellent contact hitter, he struck out only 42 times in 2007. In 11 seasons, eight with Cincinnati, he batted .301 with 130 homers and 718 RBIs.

Detroit decided to shift shortstop Carlos Guillen to first base for the 2008 season and told Casey he would not be back. The Tigers later acquired shortstop Edgar Renteria from Atlanta.

Casey was chosen for three NL All-Star teams and made a big impact with Detroit.

The Tigers obtained him at the trade deadline in 2006 and he hit just .245 in 53 regular-season games with them. But he hit a World Series-high .529 with two homers and five RBIs against St. Louis, which won the title in five games.

In the first round of the playoffs, Casey hit .353 against the New York Yankees. A calf injury sidelined him for most of the AL championship series against Oakland. But he said he felt "100 percent" during the World Series, and his performance showed it even if the Tigers lost.

"Everybody is a piece to the winning team," he said after signing a $4 million, one-year contract with Detroit for last season, "and I felt like not winning last year, but getting there -- having that taste of what it would be like to win the whole thing -- for me it felt a little like unfinished business."

He may have a chance to finish it with the Red Sox, who won their second World Series in four years last season when they swept the Colorado Rockies. Casey returns to a state where he played in the Cape Cod League in 1994.

Youkilis played 135 games at first base last season. Hinske appeared in 43 games. With Casey, the Red Sox have a better option to shift Youkilis to third base when Mike Lowell needs a rest. Lowell, the MVP of the 2007 World Series, played in 154 games last year. Casey also could fill in at designated hitter when David Ortiz needs a break.

Casey's best season was 1999 when he finished with career highs of 25 homers, 99 RBIs and a .332 batting average, fourth in the NL. He hit .312 in 2005, his last season with the Reds. He started the next year with Pittsburgh before being traded to Detroit on July 31.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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