- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- The idea, as expressed by Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino a couple of weeks ago, was that general manager Ben Cherington was empowered to be bold in the days leading to Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline.
In the end, Cherington said, "bold" wasn't Boston's best option. Instead, he tweaked, making two small deals, one for left-handed reliever Craig Breslow, who has passed this way before, and another for a minor league knuckleballer, Steven Wright, who has aspirations of following Tim Wakefield's career path.
Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, the subject of much pre-deadline trade speculation, made his start as scheduled Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers, although he didn't last three innings, leaving with what the team called a back spasm.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who attracted considerable attention from other clubs because he is a year away from free agency, is represented by bottom-line agent Scott Boras and has not forgotten his battles with Boston's medical staff, also stayed put and was in center field on Tuesday.
The Red Sox even were invited to part with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, according to one major league source, but those talks never turned serious.
"We did feel empowered to do something bold," Cherington said Tuesday afternoon. "We just didn't find something bold that made sense for us. We explored a lot of things that were bold, and maybe even got close to a couple of things, but we just didn't feel like there was anything of the big, bold variety that made sense for us right now."
Discussions with other teams never progressed to the point, Cherington said, that he asked Beckett to waive his veto power as a 10-5 player and approve a trade. The Texas Rangers were the only team believed to have interest in Beckett, and they acquired Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs just before the deadline.
Only one Red Sox player cleared out his cubicle in Fenway Park on Tuesday. That was reliever Matt Albers, who was sent with outfielder Scott Podsednik, who has been playing in Triple-A Pawtucket, to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In return, the Sox received Breslow, the former Yalie who turns 32 in a week, pitched for Boston in 2006 and had a 2-0 record and 2.70 ERA in 40 games for Arizona, where manager Kirk Gibson used him against both righties (.226) and lefties (.243).
Also leaving was Pawtucket first baseman Lars Anderson, once a prospect of some promise who had plateaued in the Boston organization. Anderson went to the Cleveland Indians for Wright, a 27-year-old right-hander who turned to the knuckler after being demoted from Triple-A to Double-A in 2010. Wright is still in Double-A, but has been having success, posting a 9-6 record with a 2.49 ERA for the Akron Aeros.
Wright merely had to walk across the diamond to join his new team. Akron was in Portland to play the Sea Dogs.
"He does a lot of things that we feel give a guy a chance to succeed with that pitch in the big leagues," Cherington said. "He's pretty athletic, he repeats his delivery, he can throw a fastball and breaking ball for a strike, and the action on his knuckleball, we think, is major league quality."
The Red Sox began the day a game over .500, 8½ games behind the New York Yankees and a half-game out of last place in the AL East. They also were just four games behind in the wild-card race, aware that some of the teams they could be contending with had made significant upgrades to their rosters.
The Los Angeles Angels added an ace in Zack Greinke. The Rangers added a seasoned starter in Dempster. The Tigers dealt for well-regarded starter Anibal Sanchez and a starting second baseman in Omar Infante. The White Sox picked off left-handed starter Francisco Liriano and reliever Brett Myers, in addition to already having acquired Kevin Youkilis last month from the Red Sox. And the Yankees added Ichiro Suzuki.
The Red Sox, by comparison, stood pat.
"We worked hard the last few days on a thousand different concepts to try to make the team better," Cherington said. "I was hoping to do more and do other things to help the team, but in the end we'd prefer to not do things than make decisions that end up hurting us in the long run.
"We're happy with what we did, and most importantly, we're happy with the guys we have here. It's really more a reflection on them. We believe in the group. We feel like we have as good a chance as any of the teams, in this cluster of teams fighting in the wild card, to go on a run and win a lot of games the next two months."
Breslow gives the Red Sox a third lefty in the bullpen and manager Bobby Valentine the option of moving Franklin Morales back to the rotation, which may take place as soon as Sunday, when Beckett is scheduled to start again.
"Hopefully, there's a couple benefits to the move," Cherington said. "We felt like Albers has done a great job for us. We felt like we had enough other right-handed options that we could afford to flip the righty (Albers) for the lefty (Breslow)."
Albers had recovered nicely from a disastrous collapse in the past two months of the 2011 season, in which he had a 9.97 ERA and opposing hitters had a 1.025 OPS. He leaves with a 2-0 record and 2.29 ERA in 39 appearances this year, holding opposing hitters to a .216 average. But the Sox decided they had a surplus of right-handed relievers, including, they hope, a renovated Daniel Bard.
"He did a fabulous job with our team," Valentine said of Albers. "He went from being kind of a middle guy to a guy that I totally trusted later in games."
Albers said his farewells in the Red Sox clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
"It's a really good team," Albers said. "These guys have great potential, and since (Arizona) doesn't play them, I'm definitely rooting for them to do very well. I'll keep in touch and keep track and hopefully the Red Sox will win a lot of games."