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Red Sox notebook

Bowden dealt to Cubs for OF Byrd

By Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / April 22, 2012
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The Red Sox turned to the Chicago Cubs and Theo Epstein in their desperate search for outfield help Saturday, obtaining 34-year-old center fielder Marlon Byrd.

The Sox received Byrd and an unspecified amount of cash to cover much of his $6.5 million salary in exchange for righthander Michael Bowden and a player to be named.

Byrd is expected to arrive Sunday and be activated. The Red Sox made space on the roster by designating infielder Nate Spears for assignment.

Byrd has started 13 games for the Cubs, going 3 for 43 (.070) with 10 strikeouts. But he is a career .278 hitter in 11 seasons with a .753 OPS.

“He’s been a good major league center fielder for a long time and is off to a tough start,’’ general manager Ben Cherington said after a 15-9 loss to the Yankees. “But our hope is that a change of scenery and maybe a new environment may get him going.’’

With Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list, the Red Sox needed help. That increased when Jason Repko partially separated his left shoulder making a catch against the wall Friday against the Yankees.

The Sox went into Saturday’s game with three outfielders - Darnell McDonald, Cody Ross, and Ryan Sweeney.

Byrd is not an ideal solution, but few trades are available so early in the season. He has hit .230 since being struck in the left eye by a pitch from new teammate Alfredo Aceves last May 21 at Fenway Park.

“We don’t think his performance so far this year is reflective of who he is,’’ said Cherington, whose scouts noticed no particular change in Byrd after the beaning.

Byrd dropped 40 pounds during the offseason, but his commitment to being in better shape has not yet produced results.

“He’s played a great center field all season long,’’ Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Friday. “He really has. Today, he hit three balls hard . . . Like I said earlier, it looks like he’s swinging the bat better. He’s going to keep going out there. He’s been an asset to us in center field.’’

Bowden was designated for assignment last Sunday. The former supplemental first-round pick appeared in two games this season, 39 in his career over parts of five seasons.

Crawford making strides

The Sox are getting good reports on Crawford’s progress in extended spring training.

The left fielder, on the disabled list while recovering from surgery on his left wrist, was 1 for 3 with a walk Saturday in a game at Fort Myers, Fla. He was the designated hitter.

Crawford will return to Boston this week to have his strained left elbow checked. If cleared, he could start a throwing program.

“I’m hoping that’s the next step,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said.

There are no immediate plans to have Crawford start a rehabilitation assignment with one of the minor league affiliates. The Sox are content for now with Crawford playing in extended spring training games and in warm weather.

“Right now he needs to see pitches, get at-bats, get on base, steal those bases, and start getting comfortable playing the game,’’ Valentine said. “Not sure we’re worried about the competition level. We’re worried about his comfort.’’

The Sox have assigned baseball operations consultant Brian McRae to monitor Crawford’s progress and work with him. McCrae had a 10-year career in the majors, retiring after the 1999 season.

Hill progressing

Lefthanded reliever Rich Hill continued his minor league rehabilitation assignment Saturday, pitching an inning for Triple A Pawtucket against Durham.

Hill struck out two and allowed a solo home run by Nevin Ashley. Hill has appeared in six minor league games, allowing one run over seven innings. He has struck out 15.

Mark Melancon, who was sent to Pawtucket Wednesday, has appeared in two games for the PawSox, throwing 2 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

Melancon allowed 11 runs on 10 hits (five of them home runs) in two innings for the Red Sox over four appearances.

The Sox are hoping Melancon can get himself straightened out by pitching regularly for the PawSox.

“He’ll know and we’ll know,’’ Valentine said when asked what he would need to see to bring Melancon back.

Pineda set back

Yankees righthander Michael Pineda, who opened the season on the disabled list with rotator cuff tendinitis, lasted only 15 pitches in an extended spring training game Saturday because of weakness.

“Not good,’’ manager Joe Girardi said.

Pineda is being sent back to New York for a contrast-dye MRI that should determine the extent of his injury.

The Yankees traded their top prospect, power-hitting catcher Jesus Montero, to Seattle for the 23-year-old Pineda in January.

The news was better for veteran Andy Pettitte, who will make his next start Wednesday for Double A Trenton.

Pettitte may need only another few starts before being ready for the majors.

“Can you run off four starts in a row on normal rest? I believe he can,’’ said Girardi. “Andy was a guy who was, for the most part, right around 100 pitches.’’

Delay on way?

Heavy rain is in the forecast on Sunday, particularly in the evening. The teams are scheduled for an 8:05 p.m. start. The Sox have a game in Minnesota Monday and the Yankees are at Texas, so a timely postponement would aid both clubs in their travel plans. Cherington said no alternatives have been discussed . . . David Ortiz was 4 for 4 with a walk and is hitting .436. He has eight extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in the first eight games of the homestand . . . Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 3 for 29 coming in, was 4 for 5 with two doubles . . . Kevin Youkilis left the game in the fourth with a bruised left quadriceps after being hit by a pitch in third inning.

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

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