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Epstein set to wheel, deal

GM will be active up to deadline

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 30, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA — General manager Theo Epstein predicted that he will be “actively involved’’ in trade discussions leading up to the July 31 deadline.

“We may be very active in trade or we may be less active and do some smaller things. We’ll see. We’re certainly not a perfect club,’’ Epstein said before last night’s game against the Phillies. “There are needs that we have and areas we’re going to attempt to upgrade.’’

One of the glaring needs is in right field. As the season nears its midway point, the Red Sox are getting the least production from the position of any team in baseball.

J.D. Drew is hitting .232 with four home runs and 18 RBIs. Mike Cameron is at .149 with three homers and nine RBIs. What the Sox envisioned as an effective platoon has turned into a gaping hole.

Epstein pointed out that the Sox have scored the most runs in baseball. But he acknowledged the need.

“It’s certainly a spot where we’re not producing much,’’ he said. “Concern? I wouldn’t say concern. Obviously, we’ve noticed. You’d have to be blind not to notice that we’re not getting much out of right field.

“We’re all expecting to get more out of it going forward. It’s a combination of letting the players with good track records play and sooner or later find their stroke. It will get better.

“There’s no way we’re going to have the same production the rest of the year that we’ve had so far. We’ll improve internally and there’s a chance we’ll improve at various spots externally.’’

There are numerous possibilities for an upgrade. The Sox could seek a righthanded hitter to pair with Drew, such as Jeff Francoeur of Kansas City. Or they could seek a prominent player such as Carlos Beltran of the Mets.

Epstein indicated that for the right player, the Sox could add to their $161 million payroll.

“I think the track record of the ownership group speaks for itself,’’ he said. “Whether it’s during the offseason building the club or during July when we’re tweaking it, as an organization collectively we find a way to do what it takes to put a winning club on the field.

“Or at least try really hard to do that. I’m not going to get into specifics about the finances but I think we’ll be aggressive and we’ll find ways to make improvements when needed.’’

The bullpen is another area that could be addressed. Epstein is pleased with the team’s depth and the quality of the pitchers in Triple A Pawtucket, but the Red Sox do not have a reliable lefthanded reliever.

“Losing Rich Hill [to season-ending elbow surgery] was a bit of a blow with how effective he looked like he was going to be against good lefthanded hitters,’’ Epstein said. “That’s something we’re still trying to address. [Franklin] Morales is up here now, so we’ll see how he does. I think we have the horses to have a really good bullpen, but there will be some tweaking going on.’’

Injury updates The idea of Clay Buchholz pitching before the All-Star break is looking increasingly unrealistic. He has yet to throw a side session without pain in his lower back.

“We’re going to go slow with this one and as [Terry Francona] said, make sure he’s 100 percent before he gets back on the mound,’’ Epstein said. “Things would have to improve pretty quickly here for him to have a chance to do that.’’

Jed Lowrie, who is out with nerve damage in his left shoulder, clearly will not be back until after the break, and perhaps well after.

“He’s able to do more. He’s still sore,’’ Francona said “He’s getting stronger. I think that’s good. He must have beat up that nerve a little bit. We’ve got to let that settle down.’’

Carl Crawford, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, worked out on the field before the game. He could return next week.

Drew left Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh with a bruised left eye, the result of a batting practice accident. He has not been in the lineup since, but was available to pinch hit last night. His vision has cleared up.

Job well done Epstein likes what he has seen from Josh Reddick, who started in left field last night. “Josh has played really well. More so than any stats, it’s really nice to see his maturation, especially with his approach at the plate,’’ the GM said. “He’s been a guy who, from the day he signed, had plenty of bat to hit in the big leagues. It’s just a matter of refining his approach at the plate a little bit, getting it a little more disciplined, a little more selective. . . . David Ortiz was at first base for the first time since June 27, 2010.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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