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Busy Sox designate Payton, trade Vazquez

Payton out, Stern in; Vazquez out, Cora in

The Red Sox were busy today, designating outfielder Jay Payton for assignment, calling up Adam Stern to take his place, and exchanging utility infielders with the Indians.

The Payton move, which was first reported by the Hartford Courant and later confirmed by the Red Sox, means the Red Sox have 10 days to trade or release him. Stern was recalled from Pawtucket to take his place, and will play center field for the Red Sox tonight in Baltimore and bat eighth.

The Red Sox also today dealt recently demoted Ramon Vazquez to the Indians for Alex Cora, who was hitting .205 in 49 games this season.

The moves came on the day Curt Schilling was to pitch in relief in a rehabilitation assignment at Pawtucket -- with an eye toward him joining the Red Sox bullpen -- while Boston began a four-game series at Baltimore. The Red Sox led the second-place Orioles by four games in the AL East. Schilling, on the disabled list since April 29 with an ankle injury, struggled as a starter in his last rehab outing for Pawtucket.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has called Schilling's move to the bullpen "short term."

"It's definitely the best thing for him ... and it just so happens to be exactly what the team needs right now," Epstein said Wednesday.

Struggling Red Sox closer Keith Foulke went on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday. In his absence, the Red Sox could use Schilling, Mike Timlin and Alan Embree as closers. Timlin got the save Tuesday in Texas, and Embree earned one Wednesday against the Rangers.

In the past week, the Red Sox recalled Abe Alvarez from Pawtucket then sent him back there when they called up Jeremi Gonzalez and DiNardo. On Wednesday, they promoted Scott Cassidy from Pawtucket. DiNardo did not pitch after being recalled on Sunday.

Foulke, outstanding in last year's AL championship series and World Series, has struggled all season. He is 5-5 with a 6.23 ERA and 15 saves in 19 opportunities. In his last outing, Texas scored twice in the ninth inning for a 6-5 victory Monday, giving Foulke his second blown save in a week.

The Sox will almost surely try to trade Payton as he has been vocal about his desire to be a starter. He has played in 54 of the team’s 83 games, hitting .263 with five homers and 21 RBIs.

"I was here half a season," Payton told the Courant, "and did the best I could without trying to create a scene about wanting to be somewhere else and getting the opportunity to play more."

According to the Courant, Payton took a flight to Boston from Texas while the rest of the team boarded a plane to Baltimore. The Red Sox begin a four-game series with the Orioles tonight.

Stern, who was acquired by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft, was hitting .303 in 18 games with the PawSox. Because Stern was a Rule 5 pickup, the Sox would have had to eventually make a decision to either promote him or return him to the Atlanta Braves.

Stern, 25, has great speed and is a strong defensive player but fractured his right thumb on a slide into second base March 5 in a spring training game against Cincinnati. In 18 games with Pawtucket, he hit .303 with two homers and 14 RBIs.

The Red Sox acquired Payton from the Padres in the offseason in a deal that sent Dave Roberts to San Diego. The Red Sox will likely try to deal Payton to another team in exchange for relief help.

The 29-year-old Cora, an eight-year veteran, is expected to join the team in time for tonight’s game in Baltimore. In fact, he’s penciled into tonight’s starting lineup, batting leadoff and playing shortstop (replacing Edgar Renteria). To make room for Cora, the Sox optioned reliever Lenny DiNardo back to Pawtucket.

Vazquez was acquired from the Padres in the same deal that sent Payton to Boston. He batted .197 with a pair of doubles, four RBI and six runs scored in 27 games for the Red Sox this season before being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday.

In other Red Sox news, Foulke had successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today. Dr. Thomas Gill performed the procedure, and hinted that Foulke’s recovery may not take as long as the six weeks first anticipated.

“While recovery from surgery like this typically takes approximately six weeks,” Gill said in a statement, “Keith's rehabilitation will be advanced based on attaining specific milestones.”

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