Notes: Olerud a unique weapon

Notes: Olerud a unique weapon

DETROIT -- A day after signing a Minor League deal with the Red Sox, veteran first baseman John Olerud began his own Spring Training on Monday at the team's base in Fort Myers, Fla.

Once Olerud is ready for Major League action, the Sox will have a unique weapon on their bench.

It isn't often that you can have a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and former batting champion available for late-inning duty, but that's exactly what the Sox will have with the left-handed hitting and fielding Olerud.

The 36-year-old Olerud is coming off offseason surgery that repaired torn ligaments in his left foot.

There's a chance he will join the Red Sox in a couple of weeks. He figures to be a defensive specialist behind regular first baseman Kevin Millar, not to mention a valuable bat off the bench.

"I guess he was down in Fort Myers today and went through a workout very well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I don't know the timetable. I'm not sure anybody really does. I don't know him personally. I know he's a professional. I know he has a great reputation. Left-handed bat. There's a lot of things to like. He's done it for a long time. He's done it very well."

In fact, the Red Sox got a glimpse of what Olerud could do in last October's American League Championship Series. Playing for the Yankees, Olerud belted a critical two-run homer against Pedro Martinez, sparking New York to a Game 2 victory. The ligament injury forced him out of the final four games of that series, when the Yankees became the first team in postseason history to surrender a 3-0 series lead.

Olerud was once a premier hitter, producing a .363 average for the Blue Jays in 1993 and batting .354 for the Mets in 1998.

A career .295 hitter with 248 homers, Olerud gives the Red Sox strong insurance in the event that Millar suffers an injury.

McCarty designated: Just as the Sox were welcoming one veteran first baseman to the organization, they were likely saying good-bye to another one. In order to activate right-hander Jeremi Gonzalez so he could start Monday night's game against the Tigers, the Sox needed to open up a spot on the 40-man roster. The most viable solution was to designate David McCarty for assignment.

McCarty spent parts of the last three seasons with the Sox and was widely respected for his professionalism and his slick glove at first. Francona wanted to make it clear that Sunday's acquisition of Olerud did not factor into McCarty's abrupt departure.

"It was a roster spot," Francona said. "Jeremi Gonzalez was a non-roster pitcher. It was not a fun move to make. I don't think anybody was wanting to make it, especially me. This Olerud-McCarty thing, that didn't have anything to do with [McCarty's designation]. Down the road, it may have. But this was different."

Technically, McCarty could choose to remain with the Red Sox organization and report to the Minor Leagues if he clears waivers. However, McCarty has frequently stated the last couple of years that he would retire instead of returning to the Minors.

Nixon mulling it over: Right fielder Trot Nixon has an appointment with Major League Baseball on May 9 to appeal his two-game suspension, which he was handed down on Friday for his involvement in the altercation between the Red Sox and Devil Rays on April 24.

With the Sox facing left-handers Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson on Tuesday and Wednesday, there's a chance Nixon, who hardly ever starts against southpaws, will drop his appeal.

"I haven't decided what I'm going to do. I do want it to be over with," Nixon said. "I am not happy with my suspension and fine. That's where I'm stuck. If I just got fined, it would be all over with. If I got suspended for a game, I don't know if I can really handle being suspended for a game when I don't feel like I deserve that."

Bellhorn close to return: Second baseman Mark Bellhorn, who has been sidelined since Friday with what teammates now simply refer to as "the Bill Mueller flu," is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday night.

A similar ailment forced Mueller to miss six games between April 19-25.

For the third straight game, Mueller filled in for Bellhorn at second base while Kevin Youkilis started at third.

Utility infielder Ramon Vazquez, who has been unavailable the last three games due to right quad woes, is also getting closer. Francona said that he could be used in an emergency situation on Monday night.

Miller's last tune-up: Barring an unforeseen development, Wade Miller's outing for Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday night will be his last before joining the Red Sox.

"I think we'll treat it more like all the other guys do when they're gearing up for their last start of Spring Training," said Francona. "We've already kind of talked to him. He knows how to treat it."

On deck: Left-hander John Halama will make his first start of the season on Tuesday night against the Tigers. Halama has made nine relief appearances, posting a 5.19 ERA.

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