Mientkiewicz fills first base void

NEW YORK -- Doug Mientkiewicz is bringing his good glove to
the New York Mets. The ball is going to Boston, at least for a year.

The Mets acquired the former Gold Glove first baseman from the
Red Sox on Wednesday for minor league first baseman Ian Bladergroen.

The 30-year-old Mientkiewicz won the 2001 AL Gold Glove with
Minnesota and caught the final out of Boston's World Series sweep
of St. Louis last October, the first Series title for the Red Sox
since 1918. He kept the ball, which the Red Sox want back.

Mientkiewicz said Boston asked to have it for one year, he
intends to comply and the sides expect to reach an agreement within
days. He caught the ball when it was thrown to him by pitcher Keith Foulke in St. Louis on Oct. 27.

"There was never a fight, there was never words exchanged. It
was very cordial, and we worked something out," he said. "I want
the fans to see it, and that's what both the Red Sox and I agreed
on. They waited a long time to see that ball and to live it. The
fact that I had it was just so we could keep it and give it to the
fans and let them see it."

Mientkiewicz said he will not receive any money under the deal
and "probably" would get the ball back after a year. He
emphasized that he's "doing everything they asked me to do."

"I didn't expect all of this with the ball," he added.
"Sometimes in life you think you're doing the right thing and it
doesn't turn out that way. That's kind of what happened here. I
didn't think it was going to come out to this. Like I said, I gave
Derek Lowe the Game 7 ball from the ALCS, and no one seems to want
that one."

He already knows what he would do if the Mets come within three
outs of a World Series title.

"I'll probably ask before the ninth inning: `What do you guys
want me to do with this?' he said.

According to Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, "the ball
issue was never a factor in this trade or in this negotiating
process. We had a baseball decision to make."

New York obtained Mientkiewicz one day after Carlos Delgado
accepted the Florida Marlins' $52 million, four-year offer,
spurning a similar proposal from New York.

"I'm honored the fact that I was probably second or third
option," Mientkiewicz said. "There's things that I bring to the
table that he doesn't."

With the Red Sox, Mientkiewicz was used in the postseason as
late-inning replacement for Kevin Millar, the extroverted first
baseman whom Epstein called "an integral part of our clubhouse

"Both guys are everyday, winning first basemen in my mind,"
Epstein said. "I wish you could combine them. But in the end, I
think to be fair to both guys it was the right thing to do to put
them in a position where they could get a chance to play every

Mientkiewicz came up to the major leagues with Minnesota in 1998
and was dealt to the Red Sox last July 31. A career .272 hitter, he
slumped to a combined .238 with six homers and 35 RBI last year
for the Twins and Red Sox.

"I'm not 38 years old trying to hang on to a career. I feel
like I've got a lot of good years left," Mientkiewicz said. "When
I got over there, my intention was to play every day. But under the
circumstances, Kevin got hot. I never quite got back in there, but
I accepted my role because I knew it would be better for the team.
I knew I could do it for three months."

New York thinks Mientkiewicz will help its young infield, which
includes third baseman David Wright, shortstop Jose Reyes and
second baseman Kaz Matsui.

"It just makes our defense that much better," Mets general
manager Omar Minaya said.

Mientkiewicz, who probably will be backed up by Andres Galarraga, agreed last February to a $7 million, two-year contract
that calls for a $3.75 million salary this year. The deal includes
a $4 million team option for 2006 with a $450,000 buyout.

As part of the trade, the Red Sox agreed to pay the buyout if
the Mets decline the option.

With Delgado headed to Florida, Minaya sounded uncertain how
hard to push to sign free-agent outfielder Magglio Ordonez, coming
off two knee operations.

"We have talked about him. There's no doubt he's a great
hitter," Minaya said. "Will we explore that? We'll probably just
explore it."

New York's projected starting outfield has Carlos Beltran in
center, flanked by Cliff Floyd in left and Mike Cameron in right.

"I think it is most likely both those guys will be back with us
next year," Minaya said. "I think we're pretty close to being
there. I feel very comfortable right now with the team the way it

Bladergroen, 21, hit .342 with 13 homers and 74 RBI in 269
at-bats last year for the Capital City Bombers of the Class A South
Atlantic League. He tore cartilage and damaged ligaments in his
left wrist on July 1, had surgery and missed the rest of the

"We think he's got a chance with continued development to be an
effective big league player." Epstein said. "He has a chance to
hit and hit with power."