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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

Lucchino thinks it was a bad move

The president and chief executive officer of the Red Sox thinks Pedro Martinez made the wrong decision. But Larry Lucchino nonetheless had nothing but praise for the former Red Sox ace, who decided to take a more lucrative offer and join the New York Mets.

"I think it would have been better for him had he stayed here and finished his career with the Red Sox," said Lucchino, who normally likes to stir the proverbial pot with the best of them. "It's disappointing. We'll miss him. It is with regret that we see him go. But he made the decision."

After seven years with the Red Sox, Martinez accepted a guaranteed, four-year offer from New York worth in excess of $50 million. The Red Sox had offered Martinez, who turned 33 Oct. 25, a three-year guaranteed deal worth more than $40 million. Lucchino said he was under the impression Martinez was going to re-sign once the Red Sox guaranteed him a third year at $13.5 million. He said he did not believe Martinez negotiated in bad faith and mostly tossed verbal bonbons at the departed Martinez.

"We were somewhat surprised [when he went to the Mets]," said Lucchino. "We thought that with the years and the numbers, taken together, that it would likely get done."

It wasn't enough. Yesterday, Martinez went on television in the Dominican Republic in his first public appearance since he made the decision. "We got what we wanted," said Martinez, who still must pass a physical with the Mets. "The bigger the contract, the bigger the responsibility."

He added, "My heart will always be with the Boston fans. I hope that everyone who truly loves me will still support me now that I won't be with the Red Sox."

Lucchino said the Red Sox will "re-deploy" the money they would have spent on Martinez on more pitching. He said in no way was David Wells, introduced yesterday, deemed to be a replacement for Martinez.

Wells, however, joked that he'd be happy to replace Martinez's salary, turning to Lucchino during his news conference and asking if the Red Sox would give him the $50 million instead.

"If they offered $56 million to me, I'd jump all over it," he said. "I've never been thrown that kind of deal and I'd have jumped on it right away."

Nothing doing
Having second thoughts about Derek Lowe now that the Sox need a proven innings-eater and big-game pitcher in Martinez's absence?

Forget about it. Lowe averaged more than 200 innings a year over the last three seasons and won the clinchers of all three postseason series to help the Sox win their first world championship in 86 years. But the Sox continue to have no interest in re-signing the two-time All-Star, whose overall performance declined the past two seasons since he went 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA in 2002. A free agent, Lowe initially sought a four-year deal worth more than $40 million, but he seems more likely to land a three-year contract valued at closer to $24 million from one of several teams that have expressed interest, including the Tigers and Orioles.

Lowe's agent, Scott Boras, said the market for the sinkerballer has risen while "the interest level in the game of musical chairs for starting pitchers has gotten very hot lately."

The Sox exposed themselves to the possibility of Lowe forcing their hand and sticking around another year when they offered him salary arbitration. He could nearly double the $4.5 million he earned last season if he went to arbitration, but he seems more interested in gaining multiyear security and fully cutting his ties with the Sox, who gave him the impression as long ago as last winter that they had little desire to keep him.

"I don't think Derek will be accepting arbitration," Boras said, as if it were a certainty.

Delay for Schilling?
Wells might just end up being the Red Sox' Opening Day starter (in Yankee Stadium of all places) if there's any merit to Curt Schilling's remarks yesterday on WEEI. The Sox hurler said he was a month behind schedule in his rehab from post-Series ankle surgery and questioned whether he would be available by Opening Day April 4. "I'm going to be late, I think, starting the season," he told the radio station. "Lots can change once it comes out of a cast and I get going and I know I've been a quick healer. But as of right now, the timetable looks something later than Opening Day." Lucchino noted there was still a lot of time remaining before the start of the 2005 season and that there "always are uncertainties" in procedures such as the one Schilling had. He also said he thought Schilling would work hard to try and be ready for the opener . . . Lucchino opted not to discuss ongoing negotiations the Red Sox are having with Edgar Renteria and Jason Varitek . . . The Red Sox and Dr. Bill Morgan, the team's medical director, are parting ways. Lucchino said he planned to meet with Morgan today and that an announcement would follow. "We're going to look at other institutions," he said. "There are a range of possibilities." 

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