12/13/06 6:00 PM ET
Sox announce Lugo signing
Club introduces shortstop at Fenway press conference
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The Sox reached terms with Lugo at last week's Winter Meetings on a four-year, $36 million contract. With all the logistics finally complete, including a physical that Lugo took earlier this week, the deal is now official.
It seemed that everyone from general manager Theo Epstein to manager Terry Francona and star slugger David Ortiz had been eyeing Lugo for a while. Finally, beginning in 2007, he will lead off for the Red Sox and play shortstop.
"Starting in '04, David Ortiz used to bug me every time we played down in Tampa," said Francona. "He said, 'We've got to get this guy, we've got to get this guy.' I used to make a point of, after BP, kind of running into him by accident just because I wanted to get a feel for [him] myself. I used to tease him, I said, 'You'll play for us one day.' I think he thought I was teasing. We've thought a lot of him for a long time."
The Red Sox acquired Lugo for a number of reasons, in particular his speed, his energy and his ability to make things happen with the bat.
While some newcomers seem to get swallowed up in the intensity that comes with playing for the Red Sox, Lugo thinks it will be a catalyst in perhaps taking his game to another level.
"I tell you, every time I came here, the fans were different" Lugo said. "They love the game. When you're on the other side, they drive you crazy. I just want to feel how it is to be on the good side, to be on their side. It's great. Every time you get a hit, they cheer for you. They care for you. Not only in the stadium but outside the stadium. That always came through my mind."
Lugo will be the team's fifth shortstop since the start of the 2004 season, following Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria and Alex Gonzalez.
Now, the Red Sox finally seem to have found a long-term solution at the vital position.
"This is a guy we've talked about a lot the last three years," said assistant general manager Jed Hoyer. "We've called Tampa quite a bit in trade talks. A big part of it is this guy played great against the Red Sox. He played great in Fenway Park. I think you just talk to anyone in opposing dugouts and there's a ton of respect in baseball for Julio Lugo. He plays hard every day, he plays with high energy. He's a rare impact bat at shortstop that can hit at the top of the order. There's a lot of reasons we want Julio Lugo to be our shortstop for a long time."
His season took a downturn following the July 31 trade to the Dodgers, when he was forced into a utility role thanks to the presence of star shortstop Rafael Furcal.
"It was a difficult situation for me being on the Dodgers," said Lugo. "I wasn't being myself. I'm the type of guy -- I can't be on the bench. I need to be out there wasting all my energy and trying to play and make something happen and just to be out there everyday and from now on, I'm just going to be myself. You try to improve every day, not only defensively, but offensively, the whole area. Basestealing, everything."
The Red Sox think that Lugo can regularly put up the type of numbers he did in 2005, when he hit .295, scored 89 runs, had 182 hits and stole 39 bases.
Lugo, 31, has played in 920 Major League games for the Astros, Devil Rays and Dodgers. He's a .277 career hitter with 139 stolen bases.
He will now set the table for two of his best friends in the game -- fellow Dominican countrymen Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.
Ortiz was excited enough about the arrival of Lugo to show up at the end of his press conference.
"He's going to being a lot of energy," said Ortiz. "This guy, the best part about his game is that he's very aggressive. He's the kind of guy that prepares himself to come out every day and do his thing. I love watching him play. He's a great player. We need guys like this to come around this ballclub."
If things go according to the club's 2007 blueprint, Lugo's spikes will wear out home plate.
"We're trying to win, we're trying to score a lot of runs," said Francona. "Julio's job is basically to score a ton of runs. However he does it, whether he hits doubles, whether he chips in and hits a home run every once in a while, whether he steals 40 bases. If he's on base, and [Kevin] Youkilis gets on base, or Coco [Crisp], whoever is hitting second, and you bring David, Manny and [J.D.] Drew up, we're in pretty good shape."
As for Drew, the Red Sox still have not officially announced his signing yet, which is a five-year deal that could pay the left-handed hitter as much as $70 million.
"Scott [Boras] and Theo have been pretty busy with some other stuff," said Hoyer. "It's a complicated contract. We have some language to work out. We have to dot some I's, cross some T's, and once the language is agreed to, there will be an announcement."
Hoyer also would not confirm a published report that the Red Sox have re-signed backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, who specializes in catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball.
"No comment on that," said Hoyer. "We're talking to the [his agents] about Mirabelli, we continue to, but there's no announcement right now."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.