Sox make little progress in closer search on Tuesday

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Sox make little progress in closer search on Tuesday

DALLAS -- While continuing to explore various avenues to address their closer vacancy, the Red Sox effort to replace Jonathan Papelbon seemed to stall some Tuesday, the second day of baseball's annual winter meetings.

Red Sox executives met with Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane late Tuesday afternoon, but made little progress in trade talks centered around A's closer Andrew Bailey, who is being shopped by the ever-cost-conscious A's.

According to a source, the A's believe that there are other organizations whose prospect inventory is more attractive than the Red Sox.

The Sox, meanwhile, were careful not to send any hint of desperation in the trade talks, giving the impression that they have other options to consider for closer.

"We're very fluid right now," said a Red Sox source. "We don't have anything close (when it comes to making a deal)."

Bailey, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008, is 27, relatively affordable and is under control for the next three seasons, making him extremely attractive to other clubs.

The A's have received interest from a handful of teams on Bailey, including some who have established closers. Those teams could presumably either deal their current closers, or move their current closer into the starting rotation, as the Texas Rangers recently did with Neftali Feliz.

Oakland isn't necessarily seeking major league-ready talent. The A's are hopeful of a resolution to their ballpark mess, eying a move to the San Jose area for 2015. As such, Beane wants to stockpile young players who will either be ready or affordable -- or both -- by the time the A's move.

At least two other clubs are shopping relievers. Seattle is willing to move Brandon League, who made the All-Star team last year, But League is eligible for free agency after 2012, making it highly unlikely that the Sox would surrender a player who they can't control for more than one season.

The Colorado Rockies, meanwhile, continue to listen to offers for Huston Street, who once closed for the A's but has been used in more of a set-up role the last two seasons.

A Rockies official, however, said Tuesday night that the Red Sox weren't players for Street.

A number of free agent closers remain on the market, of course, including Brad Lidge, Francisco Cordero, and Francisco Rodriguez.

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.