If you’re waiting for formal announcement on Mark Kotsay’s anticipated return to the Red Sox, you’re going to have to wait a few days. At the moment, the player has other obligations.
Sun and surf, for starters.
While the Red Sox believe they have a formal agreement in place that will bring Kotsay back on a one-year deal, the agreement cannot be finalized until the player returns from a trip to the Caribbean. Kotsay is believed to be in Aruba, but is scheduled to travel to Boston for a physical exam following his return to the United States.
The lefthanded-hitting Kotsay, 33, batted .226 with 12 RBI in 22 regular-season games with the Sox after coming over in a trade with the Braves Aug. 27. He took over as the Sox’ starting first baseman in the postseason when third baseman Mike Lowell was sidelined with a hip injury, necessitating the move of Kevin Youkilis from first to third base.
Following the season, Kotsay said he had some interest in returning to the Sox, but that he preferred to first shop for a job as a starter on the open market. The Red Sox caught a stroke of good fortune when the market made a dramatic downturn, enticing the player to return to Boston.
Because Kotsay can play the outfield and infield, the Sox can carry only four players on their bench, allowing manager Terry Francona to have the preferred 12 pitchers at his disposal.
Kotsay’s return to the club leaves the Red Sox a little heavy with lefthanded hitters in their mix of outfielders, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding Rocco Baldelli’s health. If Baldelli is unable to play as much as the Sox might like, Kotsay effectively would become the backup to both J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury. All three of those players bat lefthanded, leaving the Sox potentially vulnerable to lefthanded pitching.
Like Baldelli, Ellsbury, and Drew, however, Kotsay is regarded as an above-average defensive player in the outfield and has at least some experience playing center field. If all five players are healthy, the Sox will have four capable center fielders on their roster at any time and perhaps one of the best collection of defensive outfielders as they ever have possessed.
If and when Kotsay is secured, the Sox will have two places left to fill on their potential 25-man Opening Day roster. The first is at catcher. The second is at the 12th and final spot on their pitching staff, a place that could go to someone like David Aardsma.