Lugo the 12th: The opportunity to play shortstop drew one of the most desirable infielders on the market to Boston, for a four-year, $36 million contract pending the obligatory physical.Lugo, who began the 2006 season with Tampa Bay and ended it in the Division Series with the Dodgers, will become the 12th player to start at short for the Red Sox since the beginning of the 2004 season. Ripken can still rip: He didn't quite swing from the heels. But when his appearance to detail a new venture with FieldTurf was interrupted by Hall of Fame questioning, Ripken had a few choice remarks about one of his neighbors on the 2006 ballot, Mark McGwire. "I think we were all very disappointed that steroids came flying out into the game of baseball," said Ripken from the podium of the Dolphin Hotel's formal interview room. "Are records tainted? I don't know to what extent [steroids] work. I assume they work, because it's such a big deal. If all your numbers are produced by those sorts of means, then I'd say, 'Yeah, they're artificial numbers.' "I think a smarter player would have suspicions when you look around and see some of the different people coming back from the offseason a lot bigger than they [had been]. Sometimes, I shook my head because I built a gym in my house and worked really hard, and my physical body couldn't make those sorts of gains." Top DH? Duh: David Ortiz may be annually frustrated by the MVP vote, but he keeps picking up Outstanding Designated Hitter Awards chosen by many of the same voters. Boston's money hitter made it an unprecedented four straight on Tuesday, getting 60 of 81 first-place votes cast by American League club beat writers, broadcasters and public relations reps. No one else has won the award more than twice in a row -- although Edgar Martinez, the former Mariners' DH for whom the award now is named, did earn four honors in a five-year span (1997-2001). In a typically potent performance, Ortiz clubbed 47 homers and drove in 123 runs last season. He finished third in the MVP race behind Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter, following fifth-, fourth- and second-place finishes the prior three years. Rocky Mountain Hawkins: The Rockies finalized their $3.5 million deal with right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, who put up a 4.48 ERA in 60 appearances with the Orioles last season. Colorado becomes the 33-year-old's fourth team since the start of the 2005 season. Voices of the game: The 10 finalists were unveiled for the 2007 Ford C. Frick Award. The candidates for the broadcasters' wing of the Hall of Fame, three chosen by fans' online votes and the others by a Hall committee, include four personalities who played a good game before they began calling a good game. One, Dizzy Dean, is already playing Cooperstown's main room. The late Gas House Gang righty was elected to the Hall in 1953. Other former prominent players are Ken Harrelson, Tony Kubek and Joe Nuxhall. Also in the running for the honor that will be announced on Feb. 22 are Tom Cheek, Bill King, France Laux, Denny Matthews, Graham McNamee and Dave Niehaus. Dotted line: Thirtysomething rookie closer Takashi Saito, who did such a lock-up job for the Dodgers after Eric Gagne broke down again, was rewarded with a $1 million contract for 2007. ... The White Sox re-signed utilityman Pablo Ozuna to an $800,000 deal. ... Rhino back in uniform: Ryne Sandberg, the 2005 Hall of Fame inductee, is returning to the game as a first-time manager for the Cubs' Class A Peoria affiliate. The 1984 National League MVP considers the opportunity the first step toward his goal of returning to the Majors as a manager. Sound bytes from the first round of managers' media conferences, a regular feature of Winter Meetings. Terry Francona, Red Sox, on a language barrier with prospective starter Daisuke Matsuzaka: "I can pat a guy on the back after eight good innings in any language, that won't be difficult." Phil Garner, Astros, on in-limbo Andy Pettitte, if-and-where: "He wants to be in Houston, he needs to be in Houston and we want him to be in Houston and his family is dying for him to be in Houston." Willie Randolph, Mets, on his best pitch to free agent left-hander Barry Zito: "'I think this team is going in the right direction and, if you want to be a part of it, we'd love to have you.' Simple as that." John Gibbons, Blue Jays, on a second offseason of improvements: "Pressure and expectations are a good thing. That means the town likes your team and the media expects a lot out of your team. ... It's time to make a move."
Tony La Russa, Cardinals, on stressing to make it four straight NL Central titles: "To me, it's as simple as we're not defending anything. We're hunting the '07 championship. We're all starting at zero as far as record." Joe Maddon, Devil Rays, on managing through budget restraints: "My responsibility is to take the players that we're given and try to do the best that we can and I believe that we can. I like the developmental aspects. Everybody plays the same game. So, I'm okay with it. I really am. I find it interesting. I find it a great challenge." Jerry Narron, Reds, on a near-miss club's Spring Training assignment: "It's all about preparing to win and not just trying to get ready for the season. I think having a chance to win last year, I think guys realize that probably better than ever before." Sam Perlozzo, Orioles, on how Manny-out, Drew-in would change the Boston dynamic: "I'd probably walk David Ortiz to get to J.D. Drew, where before, I wouldn't know what I wanted to do." Clint Hurdle, Rockies, on a young team having gotten a year older: "I think we learned a lot through last season's challenges. We saw a lot of development through last year." Bob Geren, Athletics, on joining the Rookie Managers Fraternity: "At one point, I was standing there with Ron Washington and John Gibbons and Fredi Gonzalez and Manny Acta came in and most of us are new ... That's when it sunk in. You're saying, okay, I'm one of these 30 now. Pretty amazing." Manny Acta, Nationals, on aiming beyond others' expectations: "I want to shock the world. ... I'm optimistic. I believe it's 25 against 25 every single day, and I believe my guys can have a good day every single day." Ozzie Guillen, White Sox, on life among the Winter Meetings grapevine: "I just heard a rumor of Barry Bonds going to Minnesota. I mean, wow, you hear that you're like, I don't know what people are drinking ... I mean, that is the kind of rumor you are going to hear." Bob Melvin, D-backs, on the whereabouts of Mr. Bonds: "If we don't have Barry in our division, it's a break. We don't count on it." Bruce Bochy, Giants, on prospects of adding Barry Bonds to his high-maintenance resume: "I would look forward to managing him. I've had quite a few players over the years -- Phil Nevin, Rickey Henderson, David Wells, Kevin Brown. These guys have all been good teammates." Coach to first class : Rick Kranitz, the pitching coach who oversaw a Marlins staff that produced four rookie double-figure winners, was recognized as Baseball America's 2006 Coach of the Year. Scouts' honor: Ray Crone Sr. (Padres, Midwest), Bob Bishop (Royals, West Coast), Tim Wilken (Cubs, East Coast) and Ralph Avila (Dodgers, International) are 2006 honorees of the Scout of the Year Program. Begun in 1984 by a trio of baseball's "birddogs," every MLB scout participates in the voting to select the regional best of their peers.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.