Billy Wagner showed up in his new clubhouse and found a No. 13 Boston Red Sox jersey waiting for him.
How did he end up with that symbol of bad luck?
“Not too hard. It was in my locker,” the left-hander with 385 career saves said Thursday. “I’m coming to a new team. I can’t ask for nothing.”
Not after being told his career was over. Not after pitching just 11 months after having Tommy John elbow surgery. And not after going from the struggling New York Mets to the contending Red Sox.
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Even if his new team already has one of baseball’s best closers, Jonathan Papelbon.
Eager to reach the World Series for the first time, Wagner said he would fill “whatever role they want me to – water boy, towel guy, lefty specialist. I don’t care.”
Wagner took the roster spot of another former National Leaguer, struggling starter Brad Penny. Penny was released after going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA this season and just 1-6 in his last 11 starts.
That move came 10 days after the Red Sox released another former NL starter, John Smoltz, who went 2-5 with an 8.32 ERA. He had signed a $5.5 million, one-year contract after spending his entire career with Atlanta and is now with St. Louis.
Wagner likely would pitch in the seventh or eighth inning, but not on consecutive days as he continues his comeback.
The 38-year-old Wagner threw a bullpen session Thursday and should be ready to pitch tonight in the opener of a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. He appeared in his only two games this season last Thursday and Monday, striking out four and walking one in two scoreless innings.
The Red Sox wanted another lefty to join Hideki Okajima and bolster an already outstanding bullpen for the stretch drive.
Hudson returns for Braves
Braves pitcher Tim Hudson will make his first big league appearance in more than a year Monday, replacing Kenshin Kawakami for a start against the Marlins.
Hudson was the ace of the Atlanta staff before his season-ending elbow ligament-replacement surgery on Aug. 8, 2008.
Hudson was 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA when he blew out his elbow. He could become a free agent after this season.
“I definitely feel ready,” Hudson said. “It’s going to be like any other game.”
Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan is expected to miss the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his left hand while sliding headfirst into third base Thursday. … Former Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan, confirmed as solicitor general by the Senate in March, will make the final decision whether to ask the Supreme Court to review the baseball drug list case, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Thursday. The players union won a 9-2 decision Wednesday from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled federal agents illegally seized the urine samples of 104 players who allegedly tested positive in 2003.