FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – Mike Lowell figured he already had enough money. So when the Boston Red Sox offered him enough years, he knew he’d be back.

In the second most notable offseason signing of an AL third baseman – can anyone push A-Rod off the front pages? – the Red Sox brought back the MVP of their World Series sweep last November for three years at $37.5 million.

It hardly measured up to Alex Rodriguez’s new deal of $275 million over 10 years with the New York Yankees after he opted out of his $252 million, 10-year contract, but it satisfied Lowell, who has a mutual love affair with Boston’s fans.

“The fans were a major, major factor in my signing,” he said Wednesday when he met with reporters for the first time at spring training. “I’ve said it from Day 1. I love playing at Fenway.”

Still, he wanted to see what free agency offered after the best of his nine major league seasons when he had career highs of a .324 batting average and 120 RBIs.

But when the Red Sox offered a guaranteed three-year contract, “I knew we were in the ballpark,” Lowell said.

Had the team offered two years, “it might have gotten tough because I think the guarantee is big in this sport,” he said. “I would have preferred four years.

“I think anyone would prefer more of a guarantee, but I’m very happy.”

Besides, he’s been a solid hitter and slick fielder for so long that he’s set financially.

At this stage of his career, being happy is more important than being richer.

“If I would take more money and not be happy, I’d want to kick myself,” Lowell said. “So I’d rather be happy because I have plenty of money.

“But, like I’ve said before, it’s easy to say it’s not about the money when you’ve already made money.”

His previous two contracts were worth $38.5 million over seven years.

“Hopefully, he finishes his career here,” designated hitter David Ortiz said. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to have an even better season.”

Lowell arrived in camp Tuesday on the day Fidel Castro stepped down as president of Cuba, the homeland of his and his wife’s parents.

His parents left when they were 11.

He wants to see much more than a change in leaders.

“I don’t think it affects anyone per se. I think it’s a cosmetic change for now,” Lowell said. “Until that country can really be free and people don’t get on a raft and risk their lives and get eaten by sharks or dying of starvation. … I don’t see anything happening just because he stepped down.”

He’d like to go to Cuba to see where his parents grew up.

“I think most Cubans have been given so many rumors that things are going to change that, until they really do, I don’t think anyone believes it,” Lowell said.

Papi’s knee

PAPI’S KNEE: David Ortiz wasn’t happy that he had a career-high 52 doubles last season. If his knee had been healthy, some of them probably would have been homers.

How many homers did he lose?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I had too many doubles.”

Ortiz had surgery Nov. 6 to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee that bothered him most of the season.

He hit a career-high .332 but his 35 homers and 117 RBIs were his lowest totals in four seasons.

“It was painful, but I was trying to hang tight through the year and trying not to get out of the lineup,” he said.

Ortiz played in 149 games during the regular season and all 14 during the postseason when he hit .370 with three homers. Now he’s almost fully recovered except for occasional swelling.

“I’m good,” he said. “Feeling way better.”

New Lester

A NEW LESTER: Jon Lester came into spring training last year after undergoing chemotherapy in the offseason and worked out at a slower pace then other pitchers. He ended up pitching in just 12 regular season games.

Now the lefty is ready to go from the start.

“He looks strong as a horse,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’ve always seen Jon coming up through the minor leagues as a potential innings eater because of his strength, his clean delivery. I think you’ll start to see that as this year progresses.”

Pitching coach John Farrell said the 6-foot-2 Lester is 20 pounds heavier than last season.

“He’s right on track to have a big year,” Farrell said.


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