When outfielder Gabe Kapler announced his retirement at the age of 31 last winter and became a Minor League manager, it was only logical to wonder if he might get the itch to play again.

Consider the itch real, as Kapler, after managing Boston's low Class A Greenville affiliate this season, has informed the Red Sox of his desire to resume his playing career in 2008.

"Managing was incredible for me this year," Kapler said in a statement released by the Red Sox. "I learned so much about baseball, about the young men I had an opportunity to lead, and about myself. Ultimately, the experience reawakened the competitor in me. I miss the battle. I still need to be on the field as a player. My body is as healthy as it has ever been, and I must take advantage of that. Managing was an important component of my development, and I am eternally grateful to the Red Sox for having provided me the opportunity to tackle a new challenge."

Don't be surprised if the Red Sox have discussions with Kapler about bringing him back to Boston. The Red Sox have long loved Kapler's professionalism and unique ability to be a team leader even as a bench player. Kapler has stated numerous times that he enjoys playing in Boston more than anywhere else.

Kapler first came to the Red Sox in June 2003 and remained with the team through the club's World Series run in 2004. A month after winning it all, Kapler left the club to play for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.

However, that experience did not go well, and Kapler glowingly returned to the Red Sox in July 2005. He ruptured his left Achilles tendon in September, putting the rest of his career in doubt.

But Kapler was back on Boston's active roster by June 2006.

Kapler, now 32, is a .264 lifetime hitter with 64 homers and 302 RBIs in an 850-game career (1998-2006) which has included stints in Detroit, Texas, Colorado and Boston.