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Red Sox refuse to take field for final Florida game

March 19, 2008 10:54:31 AM PDT
The Boston Red Sox refused to take the field for their final spring training game in Florida on Wednesday and threatened to boycott their flight to Japan for their season openers unless their coaches and other staff are paid for the trip. Fans filled the stadium, the national anthems were sung and Boston and Toronto lineups were announced, but the game did not begin at its 12:07 p.m. scheduled start.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the sport's lawyers were dealing with the situation.

"We're trying to work it out," he said.

Manager Terry Francona and his players were upset after learning staff members are not going to get a $40,000 stipend. The Boston Herald reported players insisted part of their agreement to make the trip included the fee -- for them and the coaches.

"I did not have an off day yesterday. I had the phone glued to my ear because I was promised some answers and I haven't even received a phone call," Francona said Wednesday. "So I'm a little bit stuck. What I want to do this morning is get excited to play a baseball game and what I ended up doing is apologizing to the coaches and being humiliated."

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had been scheduled to pitch, left the stadium to pitch at a game against Minnesota's Triple A affiliate. He is scheduled to be the opening day starter in Tokyo next week against Oakland.

The team voted unanimously earlier in the day not to play its final spring training game or to board the plane to Japan later Wednesday.

Catcher Jason Varitek said the players thought it was necessary to take a stand on behalf of the coaches and staff.

"They're the basis of what takes care of us," he said.

Oakland pitcher Alan Embree said he supported Boston's stance.

"I think we'll get together and talk about it. I was under the impression that everybody was taken care of," Embree said. "I don't care how they split it up, who's at fault, they just need to fix it."

He said a Boston player contacted him Wednesday morning. Oakland players planned to meet to discuss the situation before their exhibition game against a Chicago Cubs' split squad.

"For those guys to take that stance -- they're veterans. They feel strongly about it, and they brought it to the attention of higher-ups," Embree said. "We have to fix it one way or the other. ... Coaches deserved compensation. They're going over there, too, and every little bit counts."

Boston pitcher Curt Schilling said they learned Tuesday the deal was not what the players and coaches thought they'd agreed to with Major League Baseball.

"I think everyone was kind of caught off guard," he said.

Red Sox batting coach Dave Magadan said he appreciated the players' support.

"It means as much as the money itself," he told ESPN.

Shortly before the game had been scheduled to begin, Coco Crisp and Dustin Pedroia stretched for a few minutes on the outfield grass before returning to the clubhouse. Blue Jay players took batting practice as usual, but the Red Sox did not.


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