Red Sox avoid all curses

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

The Curse is gone, to wherever curses go.

The party which began at 11:40 p.m. EDT last Oct. 27 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis continued here in Ft. Myers, Fla., yesterday, a day before Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers arrived to open spring training.

And, as a bonus, Jose Canseco, who spent two years with the Red Sox, hasn't named former Boston teammates in his new book.

"It was a wonderful feeling to accomplish the goal we wanted and in the fashion we did," knuckleballer Tim Wakefield said.

Wakefield is not one to look back.

In Game 7 of the 2003 American League championship series, New York Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone ousted the Sox with an 11th-inning homer off Wakefield.

"You don't walk backward, you walk forward," Wakefield said. "Down 3-0 to the Yankees (in the 2004 ALCS) it was tough. I can't pinpoint one area where it turned around, but Tito came in and said: 'Just win tonight.'

"We knew if we win Game 4, we had Pedro Martinez for Game 5 and Curt Schilling for Game 6; we had a chance."

Tito is Sox manager Terry Francona, of course, and the Sox became the first major-league baseball team to rally from a 3-0 disadvantage in a best-of-seven series, winning 'em one at a time, just the way the Sox put on their pant legs.

While doing a radio show on WEEI on his cellphone, Francona's car was rear-ended Tuesday in Fort Myers. "I just got hit from behind," Francona said. "I can see the Yankee sticker on his bumper."

While Francona was joking, Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon wasn't earlier in the week when he said that Alex Rodriguez wasn't the "Yankee type."

Rodriguez angered the Sox by slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS and argued when he later was ruled out.

Nixon said when "people ask about the Yankees, I tell them about Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, not Rodriguez." And strangely enough, Nixon defended the Yankees' Jason Giambi, who according to Canseco used steroids.

Wakefield said Canseco was a "good teammate" in 1995-96: "I thought he might be a prima donna but he wasn't."

Wakefield, who says he might read Canseco's book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, although he's "disappointed he's throwing guys under the bus."

"Times are changing," Wakefield said. "Our drug-testing program is moving forward."

Gone are Wakefield's rotation mates Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, each of whom made 33 starts in 2004.

'WE WEREN'T GUTTED'

"We made some changes, but we weren't gutted," closer Keith Foulke said. The Sox added free-agent starters Matt Clement -- outbidding the Blue Jays -- and former Jay David Wells.

The most important off-season signing?

"Jason Varitek," Foulke said without hesitation. "Him and bringing back Doug Mirabelli. There would have been a riot if we don't bring Mirabelli back.

"We can replace Pedro's record maybe, but it's tough to replace his presence. When he wasn't pitching he came in acting like a goofy eight-year-old. Anyone could ask for an autograph or help with pitching, I know I did."

And for the Yanks-Sox matchup April 3?

"I'm sure it will be intense ... as it has been for the previous 100 years," Foulke said

For the first time since 1918, the Sox go in as defending champs.

"There is always pressure to win each spring," Wakefield said. "All we heard about was 'you guys haven't won in 86 years.' "

They won't hear that any more.


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