Hawaiian Shane Victorino was so excited to arrive in Boston in the chill of December he ordered some New England clam chowder at dinner and sent a picture to his Twitter followers.
That's when he got his first lesson.
"It's CHOWDA, Shane!" Red Sox centre fielder Jacoby Ellsbury corrected him.
"That was the first real message from Jacoby for Boston," Victorino said Thursday at a news conference to announce the $39 million US, three-year deal he agreed to at the winter meetings. "I've got to learn the lingo."
Victorino joins Ellsbury in the Red Sox outfield, with the opportunity to replace the 2011 AL MVP runner-up when Ellsbury's contract expires at the end of next season. In the meantime, Victorino is slotted for right field, where he has not played regularly since 2007.
"I always look at it as, 'I'm going to help this team win,"' Victorino said. "I came in as a right fielder. ... Don't get me wrong, I love centre field, I want to be a centre fielder, but I play right. I'm excited for the opportunity. I might wrap myself around that pole, but if I've got to go get the ball I've got to go get it."
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said adding a "centre field-quality right fielder" was one of his goals for the off-season. It's also been important to add players who can improve the chemistry of a team that collapsed in September 2011 and never got in position to collapse in 2012.
"He fits perfectly into our short- and long-term plan," Cherington said. "He's been an outstanding performer for a lot of years in a tough place to play. He's been a big part of great teams. We're thrilled to add him to our team and to our clubhouse."
Victorino said he followed the problems in Boston from afar, and he thinks the chemistry problems can be solved by winning.
"The last two years have definitely been tough for the Red Sox, the organization. But I look forward to 2013 and being the team we could be," he said, noting that he experienced his own disappointment this fall after making the playoffs five years in a row. "I fell short last year. It wasn't fun to be home at the beginning of October."
Nicknamed the Flyin' Hawaiian, Victorino is a .275 hitter with 90 homers in seven full seasons. He came up to the major leagues with San Diego but played most of his career with Philadelphia before he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 31 trade deadline.
"I always said Fenway was one of my favourites— there and Wrigley, because of the tradition," he said from an event room in the ballpark, where the scoreboard welcomed him to Boston. "To call this home for the next three years, I'm ecstatic.
"There is no convincing. It's Boston; that, in itself, says it all. It's the Red Sox. It's a historic franchise."
Victorino said his experience with the demanding Phillies fans should also help prepare him for Boston.
"I'm hoping it's not worse than Philly," he said. "I hope it's not that tough because that was a very tough market. I played in Philly all those years. That was a trying experience."
Also Thursday, Cherington said he had nothing to announce on Mike Napoli, the catcher-first baseman who also agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal during the winter meetings, pending a physical. That contract has yet to be announced.
"Our hope is that we'll be able to resolve the issues," Cherington said. "We're working on it."
Cherington did not comment on negotiations with Ryan Dempster, who finished last season with the Texas Rangers. Later Thursday, the team reached an agreement with him on a two-year, $26.5 million deal, according to two people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the deal was pending a physical.
"We're engaged with a pitcher," Cherington said, without mentioning Dempster by name. "That's all I can say at this point."
Yankees nearing deal with Ichiro: source
Ichiro Suzuki and the New York Yankees are closing in on a contract that would guarantee the outfielder between $12 million and $13 million.
A person familiar with the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing, said Thursday the agreement likely would be for a two-year deal.
Acquired from the Seattle Mariners on July 23, the 39-year-old Suzuki revived his career in New York. He batted .261 with four homers, 28 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 95 games with the Mariners, then hit .322 with five homers, 27 RBIs and 14 steals in 67 games for the Yankees to help them win the AL East.
A 10-time All-Star, Suzuki has 2,606 hits in 12 major league seasons.
New York also planned to finalize a $12 million, one-year contract on Friday with Kevin Youkilis, who is expected to start at third base during the first half of the season while Alex Rodriguez recovers from hip surgery scheduled for next month.
Correia to Minnesota
The Minnesota Twins have filled another hole in a staff that was full of them last season, when their starters posted the second-worst ERA in the majors and 12 pitchers took at least five turns in the rotation.
After finalizing a $10 million, two-year contract with Kevin Correia on Thursday, general manager Terry Ryan acknowledged there's no guarantee the right-hander will strengthen the group. Ryan said he's still looking for candidates after casting a wide net at last week's winter meetings.
"Anybody who represented a starting pitcher, I think we talked to that agent, and that was quite a few," Ryan said. "They were coming out of our suite in a rapid-fire fashion."
The 32-year-old Correia was an All-Star in 2011 with Pittsburgh. He went 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA, 46 walks and only 89 strikeouts in 171 innings this year, losing his spot in the rotation when the Pirates traded for Wandy Rodriguez.
Correia's best season came in 2009, his first of two with San Diego, when he went 12-11 with a 3.91 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 198 innings and 33 starts.
"He knows what he's doing on the mound. He's a guy we've seen quite a bit," Ryan said. "When you start cracking his numbers, they're very respectable."
Correia, primarily a reliever with San Francisco at the beginning of his career, has pitched in parts of 10 major league seasons. He will make $4.5 million next year and $5.5 million in 2014, his first time in the American League. Correia said he's enjoyed pitching on young staffs with the Padres and Pirates, part of the reason he was attracted to the Twins.
Minneapolis was the only major league city he hadn't been to, until now.
"That's fun for me to see, seeing guys progress and get better. I think with the guys we have we can surprise some people. I like that kind of team," Correia said.
Ryan raised the concern of Correia's adjustment to hitters he hasn't faced much, or at all, plus the addition of the designated hitter to opponent lineups in his transition between leagues.
"But this guy's been around long enough, where I don't think that's going to affect him," Ryan said.
Ryan also noted Correia's low strikeout figures, particularly in the last two years, realizing there's some risk in this investment.
"I'm not banking on big strikeout totals by him, because he is a big command guy," Ryan said.
Correia, though, downplayed the statistic that gets so much attention.
"When I was younger, I was concerned about ERA and strikeouts and those kinds of things, but the past few years I've been worrying about one thing, and that's winning baseball games," he said. "If I'm putting up wins, the team's doing better."
He added: "I can pitch different ways in different situations. If I need a strikeout, I think I have that capability, but I don't put a ton of stock of seeing how many guys I can strike out."
This is the type of pitch-to-contact and rely-on-defence starter the Twins have had success with in the past but have struggled with recently. After seasons of 99 and 96 losses, the organization has begun to steer away from that mould, acquiring top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May in separate trades during the last two weeks with Washington and Philadelphia. But those moves are more for 2015 than 2013, so Ryan still needed to find some experience on the market.
Twins starters went 39-75 with a 5.40 ERA last year, ahead of only Colorado. After adding right-hander Vance Worley in the deal with the Phillies that forced the Twins to give up centre fielder Ben Revere, they appear to have three-fifths of the rotation filled, with left-hander Scott Diamond the only returner assured of a spot.
Nick Blackburn, Samuel Deduno, Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks and P.J. Walters are among the holdovers who will get another chance to join them in spring training, but none of them did enough to put themselves in any more of a favourable position than anyone else. Kyle Gibson, the team's first-round draft pick in 2009 who is coming back from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is a candidate but will probably be on an innings limit.
Last year, the Twins signed veteran right-hander Jason Marquis to be their fifth starter, but he stumbled badly, posting an 8.47 ERA in seven starts with nine home runs allowed in 34 innings. He was released. Ryan said he didn't care to compare Marquis and Correia.
"Sometimes the fit just wasn't meant to be, and I don't have an explanation for that," Ryan said. "But when he left here and went to the Padres, he did fine."
Marquis went 6-7 in 15 starts for San Diego with a 4.04 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 93-plus innings.
Torres back in the bay
Outfielder Andres Torres is returning to the San Francisco Giants, agreeing Thursday to a $2 million, one-year contract.
Torres must pass a physical to finalize the deal, Giants vice-president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said.
The 34-year-old Torres spent last season with the New York Mets following three years with the Giants. He hit .230 this year with three home runs, 35 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 132 games.
Now, Torres gets to play alongside the man the Giants traded him to New York for: centre fielder Angel Pagan.
A fan favourite and strong clubhouse presence, Torres could fit in as the left fielder if San Francisco considers Gregor Blanco a better fourth outfielder, or to give manager Bruce Bochy options. Pagan last week received a $40 million, four-year contract.
The news of Torres' return quickly spread via Twitter, and fans appeared to be thrilled.
The switch-hitting Torres was a key member of the Giants' 2010 World Series championship run, which they followed up with another title this year. He was even in the stands at AT&T Park this fall for a couple of games to cheer on his old teammates.
Reds finalize Hannahan contract
The Cincinnati Reds and free-agent infielder Jack Hannahan have finalized a two-year contract, giving the team added depth at third base.
The 32-year old, reunited with former Cleveland teammate Shin-Soo Choo, hit .244 for the Indians last season with 16 doubles, four homers and 29 RBIs in 105 games. His playing time was limited by a minor back injury.
In six big league seasons with Detroit, Oakland, Seattle and Cleveland, Hannahan has made 451 appearances at third base, 39 at first, nine at shortstop and one at second.
O's name 3rd base coach, finalize McLouth deal
The Baltimore Orioles have selected Bobby Dickerson to be their third base coach.
The 47-year-old Dickerson spent the last three seasons as the team's minor league infield co-ordinator. He has been a minor league coach or manager for the last 20 years with the Orioles, Arizona and Chicago Cubs.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter says Dickerson "is regarded as one of the best infield instructors in the game."
He replaces DeMarlo Hales, who left to be bench coach with Toronto.
In other news, the Orioles on Thursday finalized a $2 million US, one-year contract with outfielder Nate McLouth, a deal agreed to Dec. 5. The 31-year-old hit .268 with seven homers and 18 RBIs last season.