Red Sox focus on adding pitching

BOSTON -- With New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran reportedly headed to San Francisco and Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz scheduled to see another back specialist, finding pitching help took on greater urgency for the Sox on Wednesday night, four days before Sunday's 4 p.m. trading deadline.

The Sox remain active in their pursuit of Colorado Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, and are one of five teams bidding on Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, according to multiple sources. The five teams in on Kuroda are all from the American League: the Sox, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians.

Kuroda, 36, is just 6-12 this season in 20 starts for the Dodgers, but he has a 3.19 ERA and has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his last nine starts. Kuroda is owed $4 million over the last two months of his $12 million contract, but he would come at a lesser price, prospect-wise, than Jimenez.

Jimenez will command a premium, especially from Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, who probably will hold onto the right-hander unless a team is willing to give up multiple prospects for him. Sox prospects who have been in demand include infielder Will Middlebrooks, pitchers Kyle Weiland and Felix Doubront, and catcher Tim Federowicz.

The Sox also have expressed an interest in Orioles right-handed reliever Koji Uehara and have had conversations with the White Sox regarding left-handed reliever Matt Thornton. Other relievers are in play as well.

It has never been an either-or proposition for the Sox in terms of whether they would deal for an outfielder or a pitcher; according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Sox made a bid for outfielder Colby Rasmus before he was dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays.

But the need for pitching was underscored Wednesday afternoon when Sox manager Terry Francona announced that Buchholz, who had been scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday, instead will have another examination by a back specialist this weekend.

Francona attempted to downplay the change in plans, but Buchholz has been on the DL since June 17 and obviously won't be returning anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the back end of the rotation has been fraying. Left-hander Andrew Miller has struggled with maintaining his release point and is exhibiting the kind of command issues that derailed his career in Detroit and Florida. Tim Wakefield has a 7.06 ERA in his last five starts, rookie Weiland was returned to the minor leagues, and John Lackey has been a dice roll all season.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.