RED SOX LOADING UP?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BOSTON -- Suddenly you understand why Kevin Kennedy told the media two weeks ago how much he wanted to manage the Boston Red Sox in 1995.

It is because the Red Sox could be putting themselves into a position where they will go from doormats to the prime contender in the American League East when the the baseball strike finally ends.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Red Sox will wind up with Kansas City Royals right-hander Kevin Appier, Montreal Expos closer John Wetteland and Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa, the Boston Globe reported yesterday, citing anonymous sources.

All three reportedly have agreed to terms, but they can't be put under contract until the Major League Baseball Players Association lifts its freeze on signings. That situation was complicated more yesterday when players, meeting in Washington, decided not to lift the ban until a collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The players are restricted free agents, leaving their former clubs with the option to retain them by matching any outside offer. But the Globe reported that the offers are so lucrative that matches aren't expected.

Sosa is a 26-year-old budding star, who in a shortened season hit 25 homers, stole 22 bases, drove in 70 runs and hit .300. He has one of the strongest arms in baseball.

Appier has a 66-44 record with a 3.09 ERA. He was 7-6 with a 3.83 ERA last season after going 18-8 with a 2.56 ERA in 1993.

Wetteland, whom the Orioles have approached, saved 39 games in 1993 and 25 in 52 appearances for the Expos last season.

He was first in the National League in blown saves with 10 and had the third-lowest save percentage (.714) but pitched much of the season with a pulled right hamstring.

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