Punto had long been in the Red Sox' sights

Punto had long been in the Red Sox' sights
December 15, 2011, 5:37 pm
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BOSTON Shortly after sending infielder Jed Lowrie, with right-hander Kyle Weiland, to Houston for right-hander Mark Melancon on Wednesday, the Red Sox signed free agent infielder Nick Punto to a two-year contract, reportedly for 3 million plus incentives.

But, Punto had been in the Sox' sites well before then.

Nicks a guy weve had interest in in the past and the timing has never quite worked out to get him here, said Sox general manager Ben Cherington. But hes a guy that plays really good defense, a smart baseball player, puts together a good at-bat. Is really good in the clubhouse. Is just a smart, smart baseball player and I think understands his role on a winning team. Certainly showed that this year down the stretch and in October in St. Louis.

So, when the Lowrie, Weiland, and Melancon deal was coming together, and really even before that, he was a guy that we had targeted as a guy that wed like to bring into the team and then certainly when things sped up with the Houston trade, we sped up our efforts to go get him. And we think he fits well into our team, into our mix in the clubhouse, and can do a lot of things for us.

Punto, who turned 34 last month, has played parts of 11 seasons for the Phillies (three seasons), Twins (seven), and last season for the Cardinals, when he hit .278 with one home run, 20 RBI, a .388 on-base percentage, and .421 slugging percentage over 63 games and 166 plate appearances. He played second base (45 games), shortstop (eight games), and third base (seven) for the Cardinals last season. He also has 11 career games in the outfield, but none since 2008 while with Minnesota.

He is a career .249 hitter, with a .325 OBP, .327 SLG, 14 home runs, and 218 RBI.

Its a good pick-up for them, said a major league scout. Puntos a good defensive player. He can play around the infield. He plays hard.

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