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Hard push at deadline

By Nick Cafardo
July 31, 2011

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CHICAGO - It was a frustrating day for the Red Sox on the trade front.

First they found out Dodgers righthander Hiroki Kuroda was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause. Then the Indians put together the right package to pry Ubaldo Jimenez away from the Rockies. And last night the Sox were putting the finishing touches on a deal that would bring Oakland righty Rich Harden to Boston, in exchange for Pawtucket first baseman Lars Anderson and a player to be named. But a person with knowledge of the talks told the Associated Press the trade fell through, and Harden, speaking after the Athletics’ home game last night, said he was told by general manager Billy Beane he would be starting for Oakland Tuesday night in Seattle.

“I’m here and staying here,’’ Harden told reporters. “I’m happy to be part of this organization. I’m looking forward to starting Tuesday.’’

Harden’s career has been an exercise in unfulfilled potential, a pitcher blessed with great stuff and a great arm but beset by injuries. Harden has had two stints in Oakland; during the first one he had Curt Young as his pitching coach. There’s no doubt Young, now the Sox’ pitching coach, probably made a recommendation on Harden’s behalf.

Harden has always had major flaws in his delivery. When he was tested early in his career at Dr. James Andrews’s clinic, there were several red flags for future injury problems. Sure enough, they were right. Only once in his nine-year career has he reached 30 starts.

As a 21-year-old for the A’s in the 2003 playoffs, he beat the Red Sox in relief in Game 1 of the Division Series and then allowed a walkoff two-run homer to Trot Nixon in Game 3.

Anderson, born in Oakland, Calif., isn’t in Boston’s plans, especially after the team acquired Adrian Gonzalez. He was hitting .261 with 10 homers and 57 RBIs at Triple A.

Harden, a native of Victoria, British Columbia, is 57-35 in his career. He was 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA in five starts this season, spending time on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle.

Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught Harden in Texas in 2009.

“He basically had two pitches - an electric fastball and a changeup that he could throw with different movements,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “He kept the ball down and when he could that consistently, he was unhittable.’’

The Sox were disappointed when Kuroda informed the Dodgers that he would not waive his no-trade clause, preferring to remain in Los Angeles.

Red Sox personnel really liked Kuroda, who they felt would make a smooth transition to the American League and be able to pitch in meaningful games. According to a major league source, Kuroda had considered trades to the Red Sox, Yankees, and Phillies, but the Tigers were the ones who seemed to have a deal in place. Then Kuroda decided he wasn’t going anywhere.

With Kuroda off the list, the Sox turned to Harden, Jimenez, and Seattle’s Erik Bedard. Given Clay Buchholz’s unresolved back problems, the Sox are intent on adding another arm in the rotation before today’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. They scouted Bedard’s start Friday night against Tampa Bay in which he lasted only 1 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and four walks. Scouts said Bedard was throwing 94 miles per hour, broke off some good curveballs, and seemed OK physically after spending more than a month on the disabled list with a knee injury.

According to Red Sox sources, the team wasn’t backing off Bedard based on one poor outing and that he was still being considered.

The options, however, were dwindling.

The Indians landed Jimenez by adding a fourth minor leaguer to their package. There was also some gamesmanship by Colorado general manager Dan O’Dowd, who allowed Jimenez to start last night’s game against the Padres. Jimenez was pulled after the first inning.

There’s growing speculation that teams have been taking a last-minute run at the Cubs’ Matt Garza. The righthander would certainly be a terrific option for the Sox given that he’s pitched in the American League East.

As of last night, the Sox were not involved in any talks with Houston for Wandy Rodriguez, which seemed unusual. He’s one of the viable lefties out there. The Twins were also shopping righty Kevin Slowey, who has been injured most of the season. He’s currently pitching for Triple A Rochester.

The Sox also have veteran Kevin Millwood waiting in the wings in Pawtucket.

The Sox made a minor deal yesterday, sending utilityman Yamaico Navarro and minor league pitcher Kendal Volz to the Royals for infielder Mike Aviles. The Sox needed a utility player and Aviles has started 22 games at third base, 19 at second base, and two at shortstop this season. He’s never played the outfield in the majors, but Francona is hoping Aviles would be willing to give it a shot. Aviles can hit lefthanded pitching, stroking at a .309 clip with two homers, 15 RBIs, and a .944 OPS.

It doesn’t appear that Aviles is the only position player the Sox were targeting. Activity last night was geared toward finding a righthanded outfield bat. The Sox had discussions with the A’s about Josh Willingham, but they believe he isn’t a good fit for right field at Fenway. The Sox have also considered A’s first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson and lefty reliever Craig Breslow.

“Tell Theo [Epstein] to stand pat,’’ said White Sox GM Ken Williams. “They can win it all with this roster.’’

Williams has been dangling lefty reliever Matt Thornton. The Sox have interest, but his $5.5 million price tag next year and in 2013 is enough to make any team think twice.

With Harden no longer in the picture, the Red Sox are likely to stay in the market for a starting pitcher, while also looking for a reliever and a hitter before time runs out this afternoon.

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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