Wells finalizes deal while Red Sox ponder rotation

Tuesday, December 14th 2004, 7:19 pm
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ David Wells could be back on the Yankee Stadium mound on opening day.

With Pedro Martinez headed to the New York Mets and Curt Schilling's recovery from ankle surgery taking longer than expected, Boston's newest acquisition might start the season opener against his former team.

``If that's the situation, give me the ball. I'm ready,'' Wells said after passing a physical and finalizing an $8 million, two-year contract Tuesday. ``I've never turned down a challenge, so why start now?''

But what about the second game of the series?

The World Series champions must fill out a rotation that included Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo last season. Lowe is a free agent and the Red Sox have offered him arbitration, but he's not a high priority for a team that had 16 free agents, led by Martinez, catcher Jason Varitek and shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

General manager Theo Epstein and his staff ``are determined that there will be other pitchers who we can bring into this organization who can make a real contribution next year,'' Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said.

The top free agent starters include Matt Clement and Eric Milton. The Red Sox offered a $40.5 million, three-year deal to Martinez, who confirmed Tuesday that he has agreed to join the New York Mets. In addition to pitching, Boston has negotiated to re-sign Varitek and bring in free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria.

Lucchino Varitek's talks ``may take a little while.'' Wells' negotiations were done quickly.

``Within a few hours, the deal was done. I couldn't believe it,'' said the left-hander, who made $5.5 million with San Diego last season. ``I never thought I'd be in this situation.''

The deal brings Wells to his eighth team for a $3 million signing bonus and a $2.5 million salary for each of the two seasons. It includes incentives that would reach $5 million for each season in which he makes 30 starts, raising the contract's potential value to $18 million.

Martinez will get more than $50 million from the Mets.

``It's his choice,'' Wells said. ``He got offered $56 million. That's hard to turn down.''

Then, turning toward Lucchino, the 41-year-old Wells asked, ``Would you offer me $56 million?'' Both laughed.

Wells was 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA last season. He pitched with the Yankees from 1997-98 and 2002-03 and has struggled at Fenway Park. In 2000, he said that ``when they want someone to push the button, I want to be the guy to blow this place up.''

That was ``a long time ago because this is probably one of the worst places of my career,'' Wells said Tuesday. ``I've been the bad guy coming into Boston. I guess I'm one of the good guys now.''

He is 10-10 with a 4.87 ERA at Fenway. His career record is 212-136 with a 4.03 ERA in 18 seasons. He's 10-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 25 postseason appearances.

His postseason success ``is just one of the many reasons'' the Red Sox signed him, Lucchino said. ``He's a battle-tested guy.''

Wells also brings a colorful past that has rubbed management and teammates the wrong way. He has been suspended for fighting, fined for comments in a book and injured when he fell off a bar stool at home.

But the Red Sox had a loose team that long-haired center fielder Johnny Damon jokingly called ``idiots.''

Wells, Lucchino said, should ``fit in very well.''

And, having played in New York, Wells doesn't feel any pressure coming to Boston.

``Being in a Red Sox uniform, it might be'' a different feeling, he said. ``Now I have to go out and beat the Yankees, and I don't have a problem doing that.''