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January 19, 2007

Nixon to Indians

By Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff

The original dirt dog is now an Indian.

Former Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon agreed today to a one-year contract with the Cleveland Indians for $3 million. The Red Sox had elected not to offer salary arbitration to Nixon, a Type B free agent, who was paid $6.5 million last season. Nixon hit .278 in his 10 seasons with the Red Sox and hit 133 home runs while driving in 523 runs.

Nixon, who said he will wear No. 33 for the Indians after his son Chase picked the number, is expected to platoon in Cleveland's right field with Casey Blake. Nixon can earn $2 million in performance bonuses, according to the Associated Press: $250,000 each for 200 plate appearances and every additional 50 plate appearances through 550.

"I've always felt comfortable swinging the bat in Jacobs Field," said Nixon in a conference call this afternoon. "This was an opportunity to play on a very competitive team. They have the skill and the manpower to compete for the Central Division and a spot in the postseason ... If I continue to stay healthy, I should get opportunities to get out there and play.

"I just want to be a piece of the puzzle that helps this team win ballgames. Have a good time. Have fun out there on the field. This team is definitely a team that can do that."

Nixon said there were a few teams that were interested in his services: "I would say four or five [teams] maybe. I was excited to play for any one of them. I'm excited about this opportunity in Cleveland. I have a lot of respect for [Indians GM] Mark Shapiro."

Nixon was not sure how many at-bats he would get next season.

"Play every day or platooning, we havenít got into that," said Nixon. "They want me to continue to be smart, as I continue with my offseason workouts, but I'm ready to go, so I can be at top physical shape before I get on the field. By April 1, I'll be ready to go. Iím sure Iíll get playing time. I'll let Wedgie [Indians manager Eric Wedge] deal with that. Iím a fairly easy ballplayer to deal with. I want to play every day. I enjoy playing every day. Iím not going to be somebody who stands up or slams the door if Iím not going to be in the lineup. But I do come to the ballpark ready to play."

When asked when he knew negotiations had come to an end with the Red Sox, Nixon replied, "I donít know that they really came to an end. My agent kept me informed as much as possible. I wasnít even realizing the arbitration situation going down ... I had other things weighing on me at the time.Ē

"When it didnít happen [with the Red Sox], that was fine," said Nixon. "Thereís some other pretty good outfielders on the market. The Red Sox are a big market team, and I understand that. There's no hard feelings, thatís the game of baseball. Thatís what happens in professional sports.

"Obviously you know how much the [Red Sox] organization meant to me. Iíll always love that city. Iím going to bring that same attitude, that same intensity, to Cleveland."

One of Nixon's biggest hits in a Red Sox uniform was an 11th-inning walkoff home run on Oct. 4, 2003 as the Sox beat the Oakland A's 3-1 to avoid elimination in their best-of-five AL playoff series.

"All the home runs you hit in your career in the regular season don't mean much unless you start hitting some in the postseason," said Nixon after the game-winner. "This is what you play for."

Nixon, a Fenway fan favorite, was with the Red Sox organization for his entire professional career before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2006 season. He spent the last eight years as Boston's starting right fielder, though he had been plagued with a series of injuries over the last few seasons.

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