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Red Sox to meet with Pedro in Dominican

BOSTON -- The Red Sox offered arbitration to nine players Tuesday, including three key players who helped the club win its first World Series since 1918.

Now comes the hard part -- convincing them to stay.

Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek were
offered salary arbitration, giving the team
until Jan. 8 to re-sign the three players.

"Some of them were offered arbitration with the understanding
they won't accept arbitration," general manager Theo Epstein said.

He refused to say whether Martinez was in that group but said
the mere offer gives the team and the players more time to gather
information that could affect the decision.

The Red Sox could get a better idea of where they stand with
Martinez when principal owner John Henry and chief executive Larry
Lucchino visit him Wednesday in the Dominican Republic. They said
they will meet with Martinez during their trip to his home country
to attend the first anniversary of the opening of the Red Sox
baseball academy outside Santo Domingo.

"It's my understanding that John and Larry were going down to
the Dominican in any case," Epstein said. "It certainly makes
sense, given the fact that they're down there, to check in on our
players."

Martinez met with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner
last month and has received offers from the Red Sox and New York
Mets.

The Red Sox reportedly have offered Martinez a two-year, $25.5 million contract with a vesting option for 2007 that would kick in if the right-hander remains healthy. The Mets countered Nov. 29 with a three-year guaranteed contract worth approximately $38 million with a vesting option for a fourth year that could make the package worth $50 million.

There have been few indications that Lowe is a priority for the
Red Sox and he didn't attend a celebration of their championship on
Monday night in Fort Myers, Fla., where he lives and where the team
holds spring training.

"That's unfortunate," said Epstein, who believes Lowe was
invited. "Derek was a huge part of our 2004 year and has been a
terrific contributor to the organization for many years and, as of
right now, he's still very much part of the Red Sox."

The team is far more likely to bring back Varitek.

"Jason's a priority for us," Epstein said. "We don't want to
build a team without Jason Varitek. We might have to but we don't
want to."

Varitek reportedly has asked for a $55 million, five-year contract with a no-trade
clause. He has two daughters, ages 3 and 4, and stressed that he
wants a deal that will provide stability for his family.

Shortstop Orlando Cabrera, pitchers Pedro Astacio and
Mike Myers, infielder Pokey Reese and first baseman David McCarty also
were offered arbitration, along with outfielder Gabe Kapler, who
already signed with Japan's Yomiuri Giants. Players have until Dec.
19 to accept the offers.

Boston didn't offer arbitration to right-handers
Terry Adams,
Curtis Leskanic, Ramiro Mendoza and Scott Williamson; infielder
Ricky Gutierrez; and designated hitter Ellis Burks, who plans to
retire. The Red Sox can't re-sign them until May 1, meaning the
team effectively cut ties with that group.

By offering arbitration, the Red Sox would receive amateur draft
picks as compensation for losing top free agents.

Epstein will travel Thursday to Anaheim, Calif., for baseball's
winter meetings, which run from Friday through Monday. He said it's
difficult to predict if deals will be completed there.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.