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12/04/09 6:27 PM EST

Scutaro joins Red Sox with two-year pact

Club unveils veteran shortstop in Friday news conference

BOSTON -- During the obligatory photo opportunity with his new shortstop, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein turned to Marco Scutaro and encouraged him to do more than just hold the uniform up for the camera.

"If you want to put it on, go for it," Epstein said.

He didn't have to ask Scutaro twice to put on his home white Red Sox uniform with the No. 16 on the back. Aside from Friday's news conference marking a new beginning for a grinder who has worked for all the good things that have come to him in his career, it marked the culmination of a vision Scutaro had since the day he became eligible for free agency.

You see, Scutaro wanted to become a member of the Red Sox all along. He told agent Peter Greenberg that right off the bat, and Boston -- sizing up this year's options at shortstop -- was on the same page.

"I don't want to mention any teams, but there were a lot of calls, a lot of teams," said Scutaro. "There was a team that was making a real good offer. I can say this. I took a little less money to come here and win a ring. Since Day 1, this was my first choice. I just wanted to come here and just be part of this team. We have a chance to win a championship. We have an unbelievable team."

While the Red Sox had hoped Scutaro would be there for the taking, a couple of things helped to make it a reality even before the Winter Meetings, which start Monday in Indianapolis, Ind. The first was when the Braves signed Billy Wagner, a Type A free agent. That meant that the compensatory Draft pick Boston would need to give to the Blue Jays for Scutaro was offset by what will come back from the Braves for Wagner.

And then there was another undisclosed team that was pushing hard for Scutaro, forcing the Red Sox to put forth their best offer. Ultimately, the sides agreed on a two-year, $11 million pact that also includes a third-year dual option worth $6 million if exercised by the Red Sox and $3 million if Scutaro picks it up.

In the end, the Red Sox and Scutaro were gratified to join forces.

"We were looking to upgrade at shortstop," said Epstein. "We were pretty clear about that going into the winter. Right from the start, we identified Marco as the best free agent and a guy who would be the best fit for this ballclub. It was a process of doing our due diligence and making sure we understood the whole landscape of the position through trades and free agency and then doing more due diligence on Marco."

The last thing the Red Sox needed to make sure of was that Scutaro was healthy. Scutaro had a plantar fasciitis issue in his right heel that took him out of the last two weeks of the 2009 season with the Blue Jays, and had an adverse effect on his range in the second half of the season. But after Allard Baird -- Boston's special assistant to the general manager -- took a look at Scutaro in Miami earlier this week, the Red Sox became confident that the plantar fasciitis is no longer an issue.

"We worked him out earlier this week down in Miami and spent the whole day with him," Epstein said. "We put him through a bunch of drills in the morning and some [batting practice] and infield just to make sure his foot was feeling OK. Marco performed remarkably well during that meeting and it was clear there was significant mutual interest."

So here Scutaro is, at 34 years old, coming off a breakout season and now hoping to build on it in Boston.

The one thing that held Scutaro back for many years was not getting the chance to play every day. But the Blue Jays gave him that opportunity in 2008, and Scutaro really took the opportunity and ran with it in '09, hitting .282, scoring 100 runs, belting 12 homers and producing a .379 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter.

What led to the emergence at an age when many players begin their decline?

"I just kind of spread out my legs a little bit so that way you see the ball a little longer, you see it better," Scutaro said. "I just focused on being consistent. I think that's the toughest part of hitting, too. Being consistent day in and day out. Your swing is sometimes not there. You're tired or whatever, and your swing is not there. Try to make the adjustment and be consistent. Don't try to throw at-bats away."

The Red Sox did enough research to believe that Scutaro's 2009 wasn't some wild aberration.

"Since Day 1, this was my first choice. I just wanted to come [to Boston] and just be part of this team. We have a chance to win a championship. We have an unbelievable team."
-- Marco Scutaro

"Marco is a player that's easy to admire," Epstein said. "He plays the game the right way. He's a hard worker. He's a great teammate. He's a very well-rounded player. He's somebody who didn't get an opportunity to play every day until later in his career and absolutely made the most of the opportunity and demonstrated that he should have been an everyday player for a much longer period of time. I know he's beyond the age when you normally say this about a player, but we feel like he really is coming into his own and is a difference-maker out there. He'll fit in perfectly into our lineup and into our clubhouse and into the shortstop position here, so we're really happy about it."

While Scutaro's offense is easily measured by statistics, the Red Sox did some digging on his defense and liked what they saw.

"Marco's got great hands," said Epstein. "He's got good range. He knows how to play all the infield positions. We really liked the way he played shortstop when he was given the everyday job. Subjectively, he's a guy that plays the game with a lot of confidence. Strong, accurate arm. Great instincts. As I said, excellent hands. And the objective measures, outstanding in 2008 and the first half of 2009. Marco got a little banged up in the second half, but played through that. That's something we admire and we have all the confidence in the world in his ability to play a solid, above average shortstop for the Boston Red Sox."

The Red Sox have the man they think will be their shortstop of the future in Jose Iglesias, but he is just 19 years old. Scutaro will try to fill the void until then. And if Iglesias is ready before Boston expects, Scutaro's versatility will still make him a highly useful member of the club throughout the length of his contract.

"I'm looking forward to it," Scutaro said. "The atmosphere is great and it's pretty much sold out every night. Even when you go on the road, this team has a lot of fans, so you couldn't ask for anything else more. It's great."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.