Outfielder wanted guaranteed playing time

Updated: November 22, 2004, 9:04 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Gabe Kapler became the first player to leave the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, agreeing to a one-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japan League.

Gabe Kapler
Right Field
Boston Red Sox
136 6 33 51 5 .272

"He spent the better part of a week really agonizing over the decision," agent Paul Cohen said Monday. "He really felt at this point in his career, he wanted the guarantee to play."

Kapler, 29, was a backup on the Red Sox team that won the AL wild-card berth, then came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. Boston swept St. Louis in the World Series, with Kapler going 0-for-2 and appearing in all four games.

"Selfishly, [I] don't want him to go," manager Terry Francona said. "For his sake, I'm thrilled."

Kapler, among 16 Boston players who became free agents, was a full-time player for three seasons, the last in 2001, when he played 134 games for Texas. He joined Boston from Colorado during the 2003 season and appeared in 63 games with the Red Sox, batting .291.

Last season, he played in 136 games but started only 73 and hit .272 in 290 at bats.

With Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon all under contract, the Red Sox starting outfield seems set for next season. They also have outfielder Dave Roberts, a starter with Los Angeles before Boston acquired him July 31.

"You would like to keep this team as pristine as you possibly can, but we all know it's not going to happen," reliever Mike Timlin said. "We know this is a business."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press