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Cherington chats about contracts

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 9, 2013 05:30 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury will be a free agent after the season, so naturally Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was asked about the odds of negotiating an extension with agent Scott Boras.

Cherington — who must have been tempted to laugh out loud — gave a diplomatic answer.

“Ellsbury is a very talented player and we know what he can do on the field when he’s feeling good physically,” Cherington said. “We’re obviously a better team when he’s on the field and we’d love for him to be a Red Sox for a long time.

"But I’m not going to get into anything other than that. We’ve had a good relationship with Jacoby and hope that continues."

Cherington was asked a few minutes later about the idea of negotiating extensions with some of his other players. Jon Lester is signed through 2013 with a $13 million option for 2014. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be a free agent after this season. Dustin Pedroia is signed through 2014 with a $11 million club option for 2015.

In the past, the Red Sox have looked to sign their core players ahead of schedule.

"I can’t rule it out. But I can’t rule it in, either," Cherington said. "The closer a player is to free agency the more likely those conversations take place. For the team, there’s obviously a benefit to having players on a good contract and having control left. In a lot of cases, there’s incentive for a team to let it play out. When you have players who have done a lot for the team and mean a lot to the team, I think you always have to have an open door to a conversation.

"But that doesn’t mean it goes anywhere and there’s nothing going on right now as I sit here today.”

In the case of Lester and Saltalamacchia, the Red Sox would probably want to see improved performance before committing more dollars. Lester has seen his strikeout rate fall three years in a row. His ERA+ has dropped for four consecutive years, to a point where he was well below the league average last season.

Pedroia is under control for three more seasons. But given his status within the organization, the Sox could soon open talks with him.

A few other notes from today:

• Sox owner John Henry arrived at the park shortly before 10 a.m. He had no entourage save clubhouse man Pookie Jackson, who gave him a lift from the airport. Henry spoke informally with reporters and said he would take questions later this week.

Henry did mention that ticket sales for spring training were up seven percent. He speculated that people like the experience at JetBlue Park.

• Righthanded relievers Koji Uehara and Clayton Mortensen were among the players who checked in.

• The Sox will have 59 players in camp. That counts OF Ryan Kalish, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and won't be participating beyond rehab work.

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