Hoping for happily ever after

BOSTON -- The old joke is that you can always spot a man on his honeymoon because of the way the newlywed plays with his wedding band, still trying to get used to the new piece of jewelry on his ring finger.

So there was Adrian Gonzalez, sitting at the podium inside Fenway Park's media room on Monday as he was introduced to the local media after officially being acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for a package of minor leaguers, fidgeting at times with his ring as he answered questions about a new partnership.

That ring has been on his finger for seven years, ever since 2003, when he married his wife, Betsy, who sat clad in Red Sox red a few feet away. But it almost seemed appropriate that Gonzalez was playing with the ring on the day he married into the Red Sox family after a long (and often public) courtship.

On one side of Gonzalez, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein chronicled the numerous attempts over the last two years to pry Gonzalez from his hometown Padres. To the other side, Red Sox (and former Marlins) owner John Henry detailed how the front office staff in Florida gushed about Gonzalez's potential while still in high school a decade ago.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez talked about growing up a Red Sox fan, rooting for Boston as his American League team of choice, in part due to San Diego native Ted Williams, who Gonzalez's father would spend hours relaying stories about.

All of which left Epstein calling the acquisition of Gonzalez a match made in heaven.

"This is something he wanted; he grew up wanting to be a Red Sox and had his eye on being a part of what we've had going on here for a long time," said Epstein. "It seems like Adrian was meant to be a Red Sox."

Playing with one's ring can also be a sign of nervousness, which Gonzalez clearly was on this day. His answers were often short and formulaic. He tossed in the perfunctory quip about wanting to "beat the Yanks" and repeated often how excited he is to play in Boston.

But Gonzalez often ceded the dance floor to Epstein, who carried the half-hour session and made sure to stress that the soft-talking Gonzalez boasts the mental makeup to thrive in a big-market city (all while stressing his ability to put up big numbers in a hitter-friendly ballpark with a big bull's-eye in left field).

"He's one of very best hitters in the game, left-handed hitter, tremendous ability to control the strike zone, hit for power, power to all fields," said Epstein. "His natural stroke is to the opposite field, which is a great fit for our ballpark. He hits the ball the other way, so he'll be using the wall, and we think he'll wear the wall out going from [pitcher friendly] Petco [Park] to Fenway Park."

While Epstein joked about Gonzalez needing to improve his speed to leg out all those doubles he'll be posting, Gonzalez smiled broadly while talking about all the potential long outs that could be erased by the Green Monster.

As introductory news conferences are wont to be, it was all smiles at this lovefest, even with a contract situation hanging over the room. It was fitting, again, that Epstein used catchphrases like "trust" and "good faith" to describe negotiations of a long-term deal that lapsed this weekend without an extension in place.

Epstein stressed that strides were made during negotiations and suggested that the progress allowed the Red Sox to pull the trigger on the trade without cold feet, even without a guarantee that this marriage will extend beyond one season.

"I think we learned a lot about each other's position," said Epstein. "There was a lot of good faith that developed over the course of the negotiations and both sides have an understanding of what it will take, when the time is right. We got close to a deal, but in the end the [48-hour] window [to negotiate] lapsed and we didn't have a deal. We decided to go forward with the trade anyway, as a demonstration of the good faith that developed.

"Had we not gotten to know Adrian and his wife and what they're all about over the course of the weekend, we probably wouldn't have had that comfort. We think that he's such a good fit -- Adrian wants to be a Red Sox -- and we want him to be a Red Sox for a long time. We're very confident that, when the time is right, we'll be able to work something out."

Until then, both sides are content to enjoy the honeymoon.

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com who occasionally helps out with Red Sox coverage. Follow him on Twitter.