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More 'pen help for Sox

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  January 11, 2006 04:01 PM

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He's not a shortstop, he's not a center fielder... but it looks like more help for the Red Sox bullpen will be arriving in Fort Myers in February.

The Boston Globe's Gordon Edes is reporting that the Red Sox reached terms with free-agent righthander Julian Tavarez on a two-year contract with a vesting option. Normally, vesting options are based on a number of appearances or innings for a pitcher. CBS4's Bob Lobel reports the two-year deal is worth $6.7 million.

The deal is contingent on Tavarez passing a physical which is expected to take place on Thursday.

According to The Associated Press, Tavarez gets a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $3.1 million in each of the next two seasons. The agreement also includes a club option for 2008 of $3.85 million. That option would become guaranteed if Tavarez appears in a total of 125 games in the next two seasons or 65 games in 2007.

The 32-year-old Tavarez will provide depth to a late-inning relief squad that features Guillermo Mota, Mike Timlin, and Rudy Seanez along with closer Keith Foulke, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Tavarez had a 3.43 ERA with the Cardinals last season with 47 strikeouts and 19 walks. The righthander was 19-for-26 in save opportunities over the past three seasons.

The Mets, who are in need of bullpen help, had reportedly been interested in signing Tavarez. "This guy pitches four days in a row," Tavarez's agent Scott Boras told the New York Daily News in December. "He provides a very strong, durable arm. He can protect a closer like Wagner or Mariano Rivera. They don't need to get every save. This guy has been a save guy, and he does it at a ratio that's almost 80 percent. That ratio for a setup guy is very, very high. That may be very helpful to guys you want rested for the postseason."

Tavarez went 2-1 for the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS vs. Houston and also broke his left hand in a dugout tantrum after giving up a home run to Carlos Beltran.

Despite the injury, Tavarez had pitched two perfect innings for the win in Game 6 of the NLCS and a scoreless eighth in Game 7.
tavarez_250.jpg
Tavarez lost Game 1 of the 2004 World Series to the Red Sox at Fenway Park when he gave up a two-run home run to Mark Bellhorn in the eighth inning that broke a 9-9 tie.

Tavarez started the bottom of the eighth by retiring Bill Mueller on a groundout before Jason Varitek reached first on shortstop Edgar Renteria's error. Then on a 1-2 pitch Tavarez's slider found too much of the plate and Bellhorn's homer hit the screen on Pesky Pole down the right field foul line.

"I've been up and down, up and down all postseason. You've got to keep fighting," Tavarez said after the game. "That's what happens when you make one bad pitch. You get hurt. It was a mistake. I left it over the middle of the plate. I watched it over and over again so I have it in my head not to do it again."

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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