THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
On baseball

Some trade small talk

Fifth starter is one Sox spot that may get tweak

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / July 27, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

Andrew Miller lasted 3 2/3 innings against the Royals last night, allowing nine hits and seven runs, five earned, and two home runs. The Red Sox have gone a long time with the Miller experiment and it’s produced mixed results. Will they see it through the remainder of the season? Or will they make room for a more experienced starter in the fifth spot? That’s likely a question general manager Theo Epstein and his staff are discussing, especially after Miller’s outing.

This Sox team doesn’t need a lot of tweaking unless the brass decides to go all-out to get a Jose Reyes, a Felix Hernandez, or a Ubaldo Jimenez. If those players are out of reach or their teams aren’t willing to deal them, then why not pursue Oakland’s Rich Harden or Seattle’s Erik Bedard, a couple of small pieces, fifth-starter types?

Makes perfect sense for the Sox.

Why?

While Clay Buchholz has been out for a long time and likely won’t be back until the end of August, he will be back. When he returns, he’ll join Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and John Lackey as the top four starters. Then it’s Miller or Tim Wakefield in the No. 5 spot. If a Harden or a Bedard is added, that makes three pitchers vying for one spot. Harden and Bedard are prone to injuries but when healthy can give quality performances. Their cost wouldn’t be prohibitive, and they have the type of stuff that would translate well on this staff.

Certainly, the most recent outing of Wakefield, and Miller’s start last night, make one think that acquiring another starter might be a necessity.

Harden, 29, is someone Sox pitching coach Curt Young is familiar with from their time together in Oakland, and he also could pitch out of the bullpen. He’s always had great stuff but never has been able to stay healthy.

Bedard, who will be a free agent, could be a good rent-a-pitcher. When he has taken the mound for the Mariners, he’s pitched very well. He had a 4-6 record and a 3.00 ERA before his latest knee injury and he’s scheduled to return to the active roster Friday.

These are the types of players the Sox may be looking to obtain - ones who can contribute but who can be acquired at relatively low cost given how injury prone they have been. They aren’t impact arms, but arms that can protect you if need be.

The same thinking applies to positional players.

Carlos Beltran would be a nice get, and he would approve a deal to Boston, but the Mets are holding out for two prospects. Should the Sox do that, considering Josh Reddick is performing very well in right field, and they’d only have Beltran for two months? Or should they pick up a guy such as A’s utilityman Conor Jackson, who can play the corner outfield spots and first base and who hits lefties well.

Again, the cost wouldn’t be as prohibitive as it would be for Jeff Francoeur or Ryan Ludwick or someone of that ilk. Jackson was hitting lefties at a .292 clip entering last night’s game.

The Sox have been looking at everybody and everything. They have asked about Reyes, Jimenez, and Beltran, and haven’t particularly liked the number of players they’d have to give up in return.

They have discussed B.J. Upton of the Rays, but found the price a little too high, which might have been expected from a divisional rival. Upton has far more serious suitors in the Giants, Nationals, Indians, and possibly the Braves.

The players are torn about what the organization should do. Most of them like the team as it is and don’t want a lot of outside help.

“I like our team,’’ manager Terry Francona said yesterday. “I’ve been around long enough to know that Theo’s on the phone doing his due diligence, which he’s supposed to. I don’t need to sit up here and say what we need. I think my job is to get the most out of these guys and I like them a lot. But I also know Theo is going to try to make us better if he can.

“I do feel strongly just because I get to hear the conversations that I like our young players in our system. I’m not voting or I’m not saying, ‘Go do this,’ because I like our young guys, too. I really like the idea of our young guys coming up and helping us. I don’t think that hamstrings us one bit. We draft them good and our player development people do a great job. Young guys come up and help and it’s fun.’’

The Sox and Yankees seem to be on the same page. Neither wants to give up prospects for a rent-a-player, but you can bet they’re monitoring one another and if one strikes, the other may as well. This will be a two-team race in the American League East, with the team that loses likely becoming the wild-card winner.

The Yankees likely will obtain a starting pitcher and the Sox have to decide whether they need to counter.

The Sox seem to have the upper hand in starting rotations, if Buchholz returns to form. But a major acquisition by the Yankees could affect that.

Over the next few days, the Sox will contemplate acquiring a pitcher. Harden, Bedard, Hiroki Kuroda, the Orioles’ Jeremy Guthrie, the White Sox’ Edwin Jackson, San Diego’s Aaron Harang, and Jimenez all will be considered.

But it appears that the Sox are in a good spot. They’re in first place and could have Buchholz returning by the end of the month. That will be the best acquisition of all.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

Red Sox Video