Sox search for short-term, short-money closer

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Sox search for short-term, short-money closer

MILWAUKEE -- Having lost Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this week, the Red Sox find themselves suddenly in need of a closer for 2012.

There are internal candidates, including Daniel Bard. But moving Bard from his role as a set-up man in high-leverage innings solves one need but creates another.

It's more likely the Sox will try to find a veteran free agent closer whom they can sign without committing the kind of money that Papelbon got (four years, 50 million) from the Phillies.

That would seem to rule out Ryan Madson, who was in the midst of negotiating a four-year, 44 million deal with the Phils before the team abruptly switched direction and signed Papelbon.

If the Sox wanted to commit that kind of money (and length) to a closer, presumably, they would have done do with Papelbon. Instead, by Ben Cherington's own admission, they never made an offer to Papelbon.

Cherington said the Sox have had trade discussions with some teams and expressed interest to some agents in their search for a closer.

On the free-agent front, the Sox can choose from among Joe Nathan, Jonathan Broxton, Brad Lidge, Matt Capps and Francisco Cordero. Each, because of either age or injury, would likely be available for a short-term commitment.

"We'd prefer to avoid multiyear solutions anytime," said Cherington. "You can't always do that. And certainly with the bullpen market in general, given the volatility of that position, as a standard, we'd prefer a short-term solution. But I wouldn't rule out a longer-term solution if it was the right fit."

The Phillies, obviously, believed that Papelbon was the right fit, enough so that they gave him the most money ever given to a reliever, despite his age (31) and the workload he's had.

"We thought he was the best guy on the market," said Phils' GM Ruben Amaro Jr. "He's shown that he's been durable. He's shown that he's able to do this for an extended period of time. Anytime you go into a risk, the longer the deal, the bigger the risk. It's a risk anytime you do a multiyear deal.

"We just felt like he has the right mentality, the right work ethic, the right fit for us to extent."

Amaro said the Phils looked closely at his usage and had his medical staff do an "extensive study" on him before making the deal.

"For a guy who's pitched as much as he has and had the kind of success he's had and the mileage," said Amaro, "we thought it was still worth the risk."

Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

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Bogaerts hitting at a record-setting pace

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.

McAdam: Red Sox have problems 'everywhere you look'

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Sean McAdam, Jared Carrabis, Bob Neumeier and Lou Merloni pull apart the Boston Red Sox roster to identify the key issues.