BOSTON – Boston Red Sox owner John Henry again stood by Larry Lucchino on Sunday, saying the embattled team president would not be stripped of some power in order to lure former general manager Theo Epstein back.

“People currently speculating about a reduced role for Larry Lucchino don’t know what they are talking about,” Henry said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “It’s completely absurd.”

Epstein walked away from the team Halloween, turning down a three-year, $4.5 million contract extension because of what has been reported to be a falling out with Lucchino, his longtime mentor. The Red Sox have yet to replace Epstein, the GM of the team when it ended an 86-year World Series championship drought.

The lack of a replacement has done nothing to quell speculation that Epstein will return, either in his old job or as a consultant to former assistants Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington, who would serve as co-GMs. Reports this weekend said that Lucchino would have to cede power to make the job palatable for Epstein.

As if to stress his vote of confidence in Lucchino, Henry concluded his two-paragraph e-mail by saying, “Larry is commenting on all GM issues.”

Lucchino declined to comment other than to say, “Restructuring announcements due this week.”

Epstein, who had reportedly spent some of his time off in Argentina with the band Pearl Jam, was unavailable for comment.

AP-ES-12-11-05 2145EST

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