Sox add starter to closer mix

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BOSTON (AP) – Joel Pineiro reached a preliminary agreement on a $4 million, one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox, who are turning to the former Seattle starter as a contender for their vacant closer’s job.

The contract includes $2 million in performance bonuses based on games finished, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the agreement has not been announced. Pineiro’s deal also contains a player option for 2008. He must pass a physical for the contract to be finalized.

Boston general manager Theo Epstein did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment. Pineiro, a 28-year-old right-hander, became a free agent last month when Seattle failed to offer a 2007 contracts.

In seven major league seasons, all with the Mariners, Pineiro has appeared in relief just 37 times in 185 games. He was 8-13 with a 6.36 ERA in 25 and 15 relief appearances last season, when he made $6.8 million.

He finished six games last year and earned his only career save.

The Red Sox need a closer after saying Jonathan Papelbon would move into the rotation this year and declining to pick up the option on Keith Foulke, who also declined his option to stay. Youngsters Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, also considered possible closers, were inconsistent in relief last season. As a rookie, Papelbon was a dominant closer for most of last season with an 0.92 ERA and 35 saves. But his last appearance was on Sept. 1. A sore shoulder, perhaps the result of pitching so often, ended his season.

Last month, the Red Sox obtained another right-hander who could figure in the search for a closer, Brendan Donnelly, in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels. They’ve also signed lefty free agent reliever J.C. Romero, who could be used as a setup man, primarily against lefties.



AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

AP-ES-01-03-07 1811EST

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