Red Sox agree with 1B Gonzalez on 7-year deal

Posted April 15, 2011, at 8:48 p.m.
Last modified April 15, 2011, at 10:15 p.m.

BOSTON — Adrian Gonzalez signed a $154 million, seven-year contract with the Red Sox on Friday then turned his attention to an elusive reward — winning.

Boston hasn’t done that much.

“We have faith in ourselves,” said Gonzalez, whose new deal runs through 2018. “We’re going to turn this around.”

Gonzalez is making $6.3 million in the final year of the contract he had when the Red Sox obtained him from the San Diego Padres for three prospects on Dec. 6. Boston went into Friday night’s opener of a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays with a 2-9 record, the worst in baseball.

That’s one win for each long-term deal they agreed to in a six-day span. Pitcher Clay Buchholz was guaranteed $30 million for five years in a contract announced last Sunday. He was 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA before pitching Friday after going 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA last year.

The contract for Gonzalez, a three-time All-Star first baseman, averages $22 million a year.

The team announced the deal at a news conference Friday afternoon. The terms were confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

“If you’re going to make this kind of commitment, I think you have to be very comfortable with not only the player but also the person,” general manager Theo Epstein said. “If you’re going to bet on one player, we’re very comfortable betting on Adrian Gonzalez.”

Despite the size of the contract, “that’s a pretty low risk,” manager Terry Francona said. “He gets it. He’s a solid, solid teammate.”

Epstein praised Gonzalez for how well he’s fit in with his new team and the leadership he’s displayed during the poor start.

“Adrian has really impressed everybody by being so engaged in every aspect of the game. He’s not one of these great players who just shows up to hit four times a day,” Epstein said. “He’s been really active on defense, active in the clubhouse, involved in everything that’s going on.”

Gonzalez also has stayed optimistic as the team that was picked by many to win the World Series matched its record for its worst start in the first 11 games.

“I’m a very positive person,” Gonzalez said. “I just keep telling everybody, ‘Have fun, play your game and things will turn around.’ … One thing that we’ll always have is that talent-wise we’re going to be better than the other team, so just focus on that.”

Gonzalez could have played out this season and become a free agent, but wanted the certainty of knowing where he would be.

“I’m a person that really likes to just focus on winning,” he said. “When the focus isn’t on the team, from my personal standpoint, that’s not where I want to be. I want to be where ‘let’s forget about everything else and let’s just focus on winning and being part of the team.’ “

Details of the deal were discussed at the time of the trade, but by waiting until after the season started the Red Sox saved luxury tax money. At one point in December, the trade appeared to fall through when the Red Sox and Gonzalez stopped negotiating, but talks resumed and, “at the end of the day when we had our bottom line that’s exactly what we eventually settled for,” said John Boggs, Gonzalez’s agent.

The Red Sox had been wary of long-term contracts before this offseason when they also signed free agent left fielder Carl Crawford to a $142 million, seven-year contract through 2017. They spent more on Gonzalez.

“Adrian, in our minds, was certainly the right player at the right time,” Epstein said.

Gonzalez is in his eighth season with a career batting average of .282 and 169 homers. He started Boston’s first 11 games, batting .268 with one homer and seven RBIs. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and didn’t start swinging a bat until several weeks into spring training.

“The last piece of the puzzle was Adrian’s return to health,” Epstein said. “He promised he’d be ready by opening day. He absolutely was ready by opening day and it made all the sense in the world to move forward” with the contract.

There was a brief scare, though, last Sunday when Gonzalez was hit on the knuckle by a pitch from CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees but stayed in the game.

“I aged 100 years,” Boggs said, “but Adrian is fine with it. Usually the peripheral people are the ones, I guess, (that) carry a lot of the stress.”

But now the deal is done. It doesn’t expire until after the 2018 season.

Gonzalez’s immediate concern is helping the Red Sox to begin winning again.

“We are disappointed. It’s something that you never want to start this way,” he said. “I know and am fully confident that come September, we’re going to be in the middle of a pennant race and in a position that we’re going to make the playoffs.”

MLB NOTEBOOK: Shaky Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes was put on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a “dead arm,” a day after he again got hit hard when his velocity took a sudden drop. “Something had to be done,” Hughes said before New York played Texas on Friday night. Hughes said there were no signs that he’s injured and the Yankees said no medical tests were planned. But something clearly is wrong. A year after he went 18-8, Hughes is 0-1 with a 13.94 ERA after three starts and is having trouble reaching 90 mph with his fastball. Hughes acknowledged that throwing a career-high 176 1-3 innings last year could be affecting him. There is no timetable for his return. “We don’t feel he’s hurt,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ll see if we can get rid of that fatigue.” The Yankees decided there would be no benefit to sending Hughes to Triple-A and having him start every five days. Instead, he will remain with the Yankees and work on strengthening his right arm with exercises and long tosses. Bartolo Colon, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2005 and has been in New York’s bullpen this season, will take the 24-year-old Hughes’ spot in the rotation. “I didn’t necessarily anticipate this happening,” said Hughes, whom the Yankees counted on to solidify their rotation. “I don’t believe it’s just disappeared.” The puzzling problem was the latest setback for the Yankees’ fragile staff. Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano was put on the 60-day DL because of a shoulder tear and is expected to miss his entire first year with New York.

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