Chance to win with Red Sox lures Casey
Veteran will provide depth at first, pinch-hit threat on bench
BOSTON -- Two years ago, veteran first baseman Sean Casey experienced the greatest taste of his baseball life. He played in a World Series. The fact that Casey's Tigers came up short and lost in five games to the Cardinals only made his desire to get back to that big stage even stronger.So if you're wondering why Casey officially signed a one-year deal with the Sox on Tuesday, essentially sacrificing his status as an everyday player, there is your answer. The man wants to win. And not only did the Red Sox win the World Series last year, but they have just about everyone back from that team. Casey is more than happy to come in and play a support role, which will include spot starts on days which manager Terry Francona wishes to rest Kevin Youkilis or Mike Lowell. After passing his physical to consummate a one-year, $800,000 deal that was agreed on late last week, Casey met with the media in a fairly informal gathering at Fenway Park. His excitement was palpable. "I'm at the stage of my career where I just feel like I really wanted to come to a place where I had an opportunity to win," said Casey. "I've always wanted to play here in Boston, I've known [Francona] for a long time and have always thought I'd love to play for that guy. I just see the chemistry here and I want to win the World Series. It just seems like a great place to play. I'm so excited to be here." Casey, who is as known for being universally popular in baseball circles -- be it teammates or opponents -- should fit in seamlessly. "I had a pretty good feel for it, especially playing first base," Casey said. "Getting to talk to guys over there and getting a feel for what the guys were like and what their character was like and I remember playing these guys last year in Detroit and thinking to myself, 'What a great bunch of guys.' I know it starts up top with [GM] Theo [Epstein] down to Tito down to all the players. I knew coming in, they were a good bunch of guys." In recent years, established players such as Jay Payton and J.T. Snow tried to perform lesser roles in Boston, and they become disenchanted. Casey seems to have a full grasp of what he is getting into.
"I talked to [Francona]," said Casey. "Obviously we've got some pretty good players on this team, too. I told him, I said, 'If Youk needs a day, I could spell him. Or if Lowell needs a day and Youk plays third and I could play first, just an opportunity to come in and win a ballgame in the ninth or a situation I had to pinch-hit or something like that. I'll get at-bats here and there."Casey hit .296 for the Tigers last season, adding four homers, 30 doubles and 54 RBIs. Down the stretch, he got a little taste of not being in the lineup all the time, as the Tigers started transitioning Carlos Guillen to first base. "I got a chance to come off the bench and pinch-hit and get the feel for that," said Casey. "Playing every day and pinch-hitting are two different things. For me, getting that opportunity to be in that role a little bit helped out with my decision here." Though there are inevitably quite a few peaks and valleys in store between now and October, Casey is clearly eyeing a chance to taste the postseason again. "That really put a different perspective on baseball for me, getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series," said Casey. "I think that's what it's all about. It's all about getting back there and winning a championship. And we were so close there in 2006 and to have that feeling that we had going through the playoffs, that was the first time in my career where I was like, 'This is what people feel; this is what the Red Sox and the Yankees and the Braves and teams that get to the postseason a lot, this is what they feel and this is what it's all about.' It's all about winning. "I know here in Boston they have that feeling year in and year out. For me, I'm excited to have that opportunity to have a chance to get back there." Over 1,336 games -- the majority of which were with the Cincinnati Reds -- Casey has a .301 average with 130 homers, 718 RBIs and a .366 on-base percentage. In an offseason which has marked precious little turnover for the Red Sox, Casey will be one of the few new faces in camp. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 14, with Casey and the position players due in on Feb. 20.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.