Harden's medical history thwarts Red Sox deal

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Harden's medical history thwarts Red Sox deal

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
CHICAGO -- As quickly as it had been solved, the Red Sox' search for starting pitching depth was re-started early Sunday morning when the Red Sox pulled out of a trade that would have sent minor league first baseman Lars Anderson and a player to be named later to the Oakland A's for pitcher Rich Harden.

The Sox had been hopeful that Harden, known for his litany of arm injuries, could hold up long enough to give the Red Sox a few months of mostly quality starts.

Instead, Harden never got that far. Sources said the team canceled the deal when issues arose from Harden's medical records.

Harden has had multiple shoulder surgeries -- including major procedures performed in 2005 and again in 2009 -- which undoubtedly have left his pitching arm in less than pristine shape.

Harden's acquisition, brief as it was, capped a long day in which the team seemed to be losing options as it developed.

The poor performance of lefty Erik Bedard on Friday night in Seattle, in front of Red Sox scouts, soured the team on Bedard, but failed to lower the asking price for the veteran lefty.

Soon after, they learned that Los Angeles Dodgers' righty Hiroki Kuroda would not waive his no-trade clause. The Sox had been one of three teams -- including the Yankees -- who had expressed an interest in the 36-year-old pitcher.

Finally, Colorado's decision to send Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians for four players -- including two very highly-ranked prospects -- left the Sox in danger of striking out altogether for a starter.

The team has concerns about Clay Buchholz, who hasn't pitched since June 16 after experiencing lower back spasms for several weeks.

A seemingly positive mound session last Monday, his first in a month, yielded more concern mid-week, when the club mysteriously scrapped a follow-up mound session scheduled for Wednesday.

The Sox' decision to send Buchholz all the way to California for a consultation with noted back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins Monday also hints at a more serious condition.

The team's depth starters, led by Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller, have performed well to date, but have shown signs of inconsistency lately. They've combined for just three wins since July 7.

Boston had planned to use Sunday to see if it could land some additional bullpen help with a focus on a reliever who could combat lefty hitters in the playoffs.

Now, instead, it will scramble in the final hours to find a starter to replace the one they thought they had landed Saturday evening.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Right-handed starter Doug Fister, who opted out of his contract with the Angels, has been claimed off waivers by the Red Sox, CSN Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich has confirmed.

The news was first reported by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, who writes that Fister, 33, will join the Red Sox immediately.

Fister opted out of with the Angels after three Triple-A starts in Salt Lake City, where he allowed seven runs on 16 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

With Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson on the DL, the Red Sox need immediate starting pitching help. Triple-A Pawtucket call-up Hector Velazquez made a spot start earlier this week in the fifth spot behind Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price and Drew Pomeranz. 

Fister will receive $1.75 million in the majors from the Red Sox, with $1.2 million available in additional incentives, according to Cotillo. 

Fister has pitched eight seasons in the majors, including 2016 with the Astros, going 12-13 with 4.64 ERA in 180 1/3 innings. His best season was 2014 with the Nationals (16-6, 2.41 ERA).