BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Red Sox on Friday declined to offer salary arbitration to outfielders Trot Nixon and Gabe Kapler, catcher Doug Mirabelli and second baseman Mark Loretta.

Nixon is the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox organization, a first-round draft choice in 1993 by then-general manager Lou Gorman. Nixon became the regular right-fielder in 1999 and has been a favorite of his teammates and fans for his aggressive play.

He has batted .278 with 133 homers and 523 RBIs but also made frequent trips to the disabled list, including last year, when he missed all of August with a strained right biceps.

Manager Terry Francona let Nixon take the field in the top of the fifth in the last home game, then replaced him to let him run off to a standing ovation, one of three he got that day.

“I can’t thank these fans enough,” Nixon said then. “I don’t know what the future’s going to hold for me.”

Nixon still could return to the team, under new free agency rules.

The team offered arbitration to reliever Keith Foulke, and will be eligible to receive compensation for him. Foulke closed out the team’s 2004 World Series title, but he has struggled since then with injuries and ineffectiveness and both sides declined options this offseason, making him a free agent.

Loretta batted .285 in his only season in Boston, joining with Alex Gonzalez to solidify the Red Sox double-play combination.

Loretta had just four errors at second base, and Gonzalez had seven at shortstop while batting .255.

Gonzalez has already agreed to a three-year, $14 million deal with Cincinnati, and the team will receive compensation for him. He was not offered salary arbitration.

The Red Sox traded Mirabelli to San Diego for Loretta after the 2005 season, and reacquired him on May 1 in another trade. Mirabelli had a combined .191 average with both teams.

Kapler hit .254 in 72 games this season.

If a team offers arbitration to one of its own players, and the player accepts, the player is considered signed. His salary would be determined in arbitration during spring training, unless the two sides can work out a deal before then.

Under rules in place for the first time this year, the Red Sox could decline to offer a player arbitration and still bring him back. Previously, a team needed to promise salary arbitration to its own free agent or lose the right to sign him until May 1.

AP-ES-12-01-06 2150EST


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