Epstein: Hold comparisons between Crisp, Damon

Updated: January 28, 2006, 10:26 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have high hopes for Coco Crisp, the speedy, switch-hitting outfielder they just acquired from the Cleveland Indians.

But Theo Epstein made one thing clear Saturday: "Coco Crisp is not Johnny Damon," the Boston general manager said. "He's his own player. He brings his own strengths."

Still, it will be impossible to avoid the inevitable comparisons.

The Red Sox traded for Crisp in a seven-player deal late Friday to fill the void left by Damon, the center fielder and leadoff hitter who helped them to a World Series championship in 2004. Damon left Boston for a $52 million, four-year contract with the rival New York Yankees last month.

Crisp, with his sugar-cereal nickname courtesy of his great-grandmother, said he and Damon have a lot more in common than idiosyncrasies.

"I love the game," Crisp said during a conference call. "I play hard. I'm not afraid to run into a wall and get hurt.

"I think that's the type of player they love in Boston. That's the type of player that Johnny was."

The Red Sox sought Crisp to take over for Damon in center field and the leadoff spot, but that doesn't mean he is about to grow out his hair or don a beard.

Boston scouts had been watching Crisp for 18 months, Epstein said. When talks broke down with Damon this offseason, interest in Crisp intensified.

Crisp is an athletic player, and the Red Sox hope he will get on base and steal bases. He has deceptive power, Epstein said, and is billed as an excellent teammate. He batted .300 with 16 homers, 69 RBI and 15 stolen bases last season.

And at 26, Crisp is six years younger than Damon, who was hampered by left shoulder problems late last year.

"He has an energy and swagger that we think will play well at Fenway," Epstein said.

The Red Sox got Crisp, reliever David Riske and backup catcher Josh Bard for reliever Guillermo Mota, third base prospect Andy Marte, minor league catcher Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named and cash.

But all eyes will be on the replacement for Damon, whose shaggy beard and long hair became a hallmark of Boston's first World Series championship team in 86 years.

On Saturday, Crisp shook off any notions that he had to fill Damon's shoes for the Red Sox.

"I like a lot of ballplayers, and I like Johnny," Crisp said. "But as far as going into his shadow, I don't believe it's like that.

"I'm just going to go out there and play my own game," Crisp concluded. "Hopefully, I'll be able to bring some excitement and enjoyment from the fans."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press