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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

Epstein says there is limit on spending

NEW ORLEANS -- The image of the Red Sox and Yankees going to outlandish lengths to top each other in an unprecedented battle of bankrolls has swept the baseball world. But Sox general manager Theo Epstein takes exception to the portrayal.

 

Sure, the Sox reached surprisingly deep to beat the Yankees to Curt Schilling, signing him for $25.5 million over two years, in addition to his $12 million salary next season and a $13 million option in 2007. But don't compare the Sox with the Yankees, Epstein insisted.

"I'm not going to deny that we have tremendous resources, but they're limited at the same time," he said. "We can't just spend as much as we want and go get everything we want. We're not like that. We're like a normal team, with a little bit more to work with. But we're not like the team they're comparing us to that seemingly has very few restrictions, if any."

The Sox, who finished last season with a $106 million payroll, may push $120 million next year, just short of the luxury tax threshold ($120.5 million). The Yankees, meanwhile, finished the season with a $164 million payroll and could approach $200 million next year.

"We're just not in that class," Epstein said. "That's not how we go about our business, and at the end of the day, when you look at what the payrolls are going to be, you'll see that we're not going to be in the same stratosphere as the Yankees. Just because we're pursuing two elite pitchers [Schilling and Keith Foulke] and we landed one and may or may not land the other one, it doesn't make us the Yankees."

No hard feelings

Despite the heated rhetoric surrounding Nomar Garciaparra and the Sox, manager Terry Francona believes Garciaparra could return to the Sox without any negative impact on his relationship with the team. "I would never say it's irreparable," Francona said. "Baseball has got a funny way of things going away in a hurry. Nothing is irreparable, ever." . . . Epstein said he is confident Major League Baseball will not void Schilling's contract over the first-ever inclusion of a clause in which Schilling's $13 million option for 2007 would vest at $15 million if the Sox win the World Series during his first three years with the team. "The contract will be approved," Epstein predicted, without requiring any changes . . . It wouldn't be the winter meetings without some wild rumors circulating. An early one that made the rounds involved a three-way trade involving the Sox, Rangers, and Phillies in which Manny Ramirez would go to Texas, Alex Rodriguez to Boston, and Garciaparra to Philadelphia, among several other twists. "It doesn't justify a comment," Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade said dismissively. "We haven't had any conversations. It hasn't come up.". . . Epstein said he remains committed to talking to agent Fernando Cuza during the meetings about a contract extension for Pedro Martinez. A multiyear contract for David Ortiz also is expected to be on the agenda. Cuza also represents Miguel Tejada, who could be a leading candidate to replace Garciaparra if he were traded . . . The Sox are not expected to name next season's coaches until after the meetings, though hitting coach Ron Jackson and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas are certain to return. Dave Wallace, who is expected to serve as pitching coach, is at the meetings . . . A's reliever Jim Mecir, who has pitched nine seasons in the major leagues despite being born with club feet, will receive the Tony Conigliaro Award for overcoming adversity through spirit, determination, and courage at the annual awards dinner of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Tickets to the Jan. 12 charity event at the Sheraton-Boston Hotel are $125 per person and can be obtained by sending checks to Boston Chapter-BBWA, PO Box 7346, Nashua, NH, 03060.

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