BOSTON - Steve Avery isn't sure yet that he will replace Roger Clemens as the ace of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff. That move has to be made by manager Jimy Williams.
"I don't know that I'll be expected to fill those shoes," Avery said Wednesday after meeting the Boston media for the first time. "If Jimy decides that he wants to put me in that spot, I'm comfortable with it.
"In Atlanta, we were expected to win every day. And that's what I think a No. 1 starter is."
Clemens left the Red Sox after 13 years for a four-year, $31 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. When the Red Sox realized someone would have to pitch all those innings and make the big starts, they turned to Avery.
Avery's contract will pay him $4.85 million this year plus incentives. If he pitches regularly, it will also activate an option for him to renew a second year and give the club an option on a third.
He said his preference for only one guaranteed year was more out of fear that he wouldn't like it in Boston than a desire to drive up his salary as a free agent again.
"I've been in a real good situation in Atlanta," he said. "I wanted to make sure that I made the right choice. You never really know until you play there for a year. ... If I didn't like it, I would try again."
But another reason that he chose Boston was because of Williams, who was a coach with the Braves. Avery spent his entire career with the Atlanta organization, from the time the Braves made him the third overall pick in the 1988 draft.
"When you're coming up in one organization, you just think you'll be there forever," he said. "It is going to be an adjustment for me to come to a new city and a new league. But I look at it as a spark to get you going again."
And pitching in lefty-unfriendly Fenway Park "can't be any worse than (Colorado's) Coors Field."
Avery, 26, is 72-62 in his career with a 3.83 ERA. He also has a 4-1 record and 2.49 ERA in the NL playoffs and a 1-1 mark and 3.19 ERA in the World Series.
Last season, for the first time, he went on the disabled list. A strained muscle in his rib cage cost him two months of the season, and he never felt quite right after that.
"The thing last year was a fluke," he said. "I took two months off in the middle of the season. I wouldn't recommend that to any pitcher.
"It wasn't much fun sitting around. Hopefully, I'll go another 6« years before I get injured again."
"We made a proposal for a five- to a six-year deal, but dollar amounts were never exchanged," Dan Lozano said Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Lozano asked for about $60 million over six years, that the Dodgers rejected a request for a long term contract, and were expected to instead offer a two-year deal for about $14 million.
"They made a proposal to us on a long-term deal," Lozano said. "The length of the contract was not long enough nor were the dollars per year enough. So therefore, we're in a situation where we're talking about a one-year or possibly a two-year deal. "
Piazza, second in the National League MVP voting last season behind San Diego's Ken Caminiti, said earlier in the week he's "not that close right now" with the team in contract negotiations.
An All-Star in each of his four seasons, Piazza is eligible for arbitration and can become a free agent after the 1998 season.
Teams and players must submit salary requests for arbitration by next Monday.
"We'd like to get this done before (it comes to down to arbitration)," Lozano said.
Dodgers general manager Fred Claire would only say the team would continue to negotiate in an attempt to avoid arbitration.
Claire refused to comment on any salary proposals made by either side.
Piazza hit .336 with 36 homers and 105 RBIs last season. He said Monday he just wanted what was fair, and added, "As a player, you have to be prepared for anything."
The Times quoted Piazza as saying he was "disappointed and frustrated" with negotiations.
"I'd like to sign long-term, but it's up to the Dodgers," Piazza was quoted as saying.
Signed to a three-year $13.5 million free agent contract last month, Wells broke his pitching hand during a brawl early Sunday near San Diego. He is to be out four weeks, in time to report to spring training for the World Series champions.
The left-hander was examined Tuesday by Dr. Alan Miller, the team's orthopedic consultant for spring training, and Dr. John Rayhack, a hand specialist.
The doctors said the fracture was to the fifth metacarpal bone, commonly called boxer's fracture.
Wells had gone to San Diego for his mother's funeral and became involved in a brawl that left two other men injured, police said.
Wells and a friend reportedly accosted the two men, accusing them of taking the keys to the pitcher's car. According to police, one of the men injured an eye and the other was taken to Balboa Naval Hospital for a cut on the back of the head.
Police spokesman Bill Robinson said a detective had talked to Wells' lawyer.
"There have been no arrests," Robinson said. "The charge could be felony assault. The decision to prosecute has to be made by the DA."
Wells' agent, Gregg Clifton, said the left-hander would be out for six weeks because of the injury. But after Wednesday's examination, the Yankees said his recovery is expected to take four weeks. That would put him on schedule to report to spring training with pitchers and catchers.
The Yankees signed Wells as a replacement for Jimmy Key, who left New York for a free agent deal in Baltimore. He is expected to be the No. 3 starter behind David Cone and Andy Pettitte.
Reached at the owners' meeting in Arizona by the New York Post, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner expressed support for Wells.
"Naturally, I'm concerned any time a player is injured," he said. "But I'm solidly behind David Wells. I don't have all the facts right now."
The council did not disclose any decisions following a 6«-hour meeting, but the group's discussions was related by a management source speaking on the condition he not be identified. The council, according to the sources, will be the search committee with McMorris or Wilpon - both on the council - heading the search.
The other prime issue of the winter meeting - assigning two 1998 expansion teams to their leagues - will be formally decided Thursday. The Arizona Diamondbacks are expected to join the NL and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays the AL.
"Just the expansion rivalry with Colorado (makes it worthwhile)," Arizona CEO Jerry Colangelo said. "We've always had a rivalry with L.A. in terms of the Lakers and the Suns, so that's a natural. The affiliation between the Giants and their Triple-A team in Phoenix, that's always been there, and then many people in Phoenix go to San Diego in the summer, so there's a tie to every franchise."
While the Diamondbacks will create a five-team NL West, adding the Devil Rays to the AL East will necessitate realignment, with one team shifting from East to Central and another from Central to West.
The move considered most likely would put Detroit in the Central and Kansas City in the West. Royals CEO David Glass has said he will resist any such proposal.
"It does set up other things that we're going to need to talk about," acting commissioner Bud Selig said.
Earlier, Selig's staff mapped out TV markets. The Diamondbacks were given rights to Utah, only to discover they will have to share it with the Colorado Rockies, a 1993 expansion team. The Diamondbacks therefore were allowed to add the El Paso, Texas area, Colangelo said.
The commissioner search is expected to take several months to a year. Selig led the committee that recommended former commissioners Peter Ueberroth and A. Bartlett Giamatti, and Atlanta Braves chairman Bill Bartholomay took over following Fay Vincent's forced resignation in September 1992. The headhunt was abandoned three years ago and postponed until after labor negotiations.
"The council has already spent considerable amount of time on the search committee process," Selig said. "Despite the fact that this is our first physical meeting, we've had at least two phone calls in which we've spent a lot of time talking about the process of the committee."
Colangelo said he has told Selig and others they should write a job description and have definite qualities in mind before trying to fill the office.
"I'm not interested in names or cosmetics. I'm interested in somebody who can roll up his sleeves and get the job done - somebody who understands sports business," Colangelo said.
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