No worries for Red Sox at deadline
Return of injured players brings a calm to the clubhouse
BOSTON -- In years past, the anxiety within the Boston Red Sox clubhouse could be felt in the weeks and days leading up to Major League Baseball's trade deadline, with players wondering if they were staying or going.
Despite all the injuries and adversity the Red Sox have faced this season, and the club's current needs, there's a sense of calm behind closed doors. For all intents and purposes, Boston's trade-deadline acquisitions have, and will, come from within, with Victor Martinez, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz recently returning from the disabled list. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are close to returning, too.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has said he's looking to add a backup catcher that the club will be able to control through next season, an outfielder and some relief help. The main concern at this point is the bullpen.
Epstein has had conversations with the Toronto Blue Jays about reliever Scott Downs, but according to a major league source the Blue Jays will likely keep Downs unless "somebody blows them away" with a deal. Toronto is looking for top prospects in exchange for the left-hander. Epstein & Co. believe too highly in their top prospects to part with them.
The Sox's GM also spoke with Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Mike Lowell, and there's a possibility of movement for the veteran third baseman. He completed his minor league rehab assignment on Wednesday and rejoined the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway. However, he was not activated as Epstein asked Lowell's camp to stay patient for a day or two.
Lowell made it clear again Friday afternoon that he would welcome a change of scenery, and will leave that decision up to the Red Sox.
Even though it seemed quiet Friday night on the trade front, you can bet Epstein has his hand in every possible deal. If a player's name is being floated out there in trade rumors, Boston's name is usually somehow attached to it.
It seems unlikely the Red Sox will make a blockbuster trade, but if Epstein does pull off a deal, it'll be for someone who can help the club right now.
Behind closed doors, Red Sox players who have heard their names rumored in possible deals in the past and present aren't as concerned these days, including Buchholz and Manny Delcarmen.
Delcarmen has struggled out of the bullpen this season, and has been battling back and forearm injuries. His name has been brought up in past and has resurfaced again this summer. He's at a point in his career where he can't focus on the what-ifs.
"My name has been talked about a lot ever since I'm been [in the majors]," Delcarmen said. "You kind of get used to it -- I guess. Right now I'm just trying to focus on getting people out. If my agent calls me, then it's a little different. I'm just hoping to go out there and pitch well.
"You think about it," he added. "You just need to go with the flow."
Buchholz's name has been thrown around in previous trade-deadline rumors more than he'd like to remember. He actually went as far as telling him family and friends to cancel their trips to Boston last summer because he thought he was being traded.
It didn't happen.
Now, he's finally turning into the top-notch pitcher the Red Sox have been waiting for, but that doesn't mean he's comfortable when July 31 rolls around.
"Every guy who plays here wants to stay here for the rest of his career," Buchholz said. "But it's a business, too. You've got to respect the organization for what they've done for you while you've been here, but at the same time, if the organization is better by you leaving and bringing in someone else, they're just trying to make the team better and win a World Series.
"It's tough sometimes. It was tough last year when the [Victor] Martinez trade was being talked about. You can't help but think about it. At the same time, you can't think about it because it can prohibit you from doing what you can do on the field."
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he does not focus on the deadline and will leave that to his boss.
"I know Theo and those guys are down there working, and if he thinks he can makes us better, while making sense, he'll do it," Francona said. "I'm confident in that. I think he does a good job of keeping track of the present and the future."
Francona has said in the past he realizes there is a lot of uncertainty in the week of the deadline and knows it can be difficult for the players. In fact, he will sometimes talk with players to calm them down about reports of trades, telling them to stay in the moment and concentrate on the task at hand.
"Sometimes, when you're in uniform, all you care about is today," Francona said.
Basically, Francona will concentrate on his players and stay out of Epstein's business, unless the GM asks the manager for his opinion.
"I try not to have conversations with [Epstein] where he feels pressure from me to do something that would hinder our future," Francona said.
Of course, Epstein has proven in the past that he's not afraid to pull the trigger on a big-time deal. He dealt Nomar Garciaparra as part of a four-team deal in 2004 and the team ultimately won the World Series that season without the disgruntled shortstop.
The Red Sox were quiet at the deadline in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, Boston acquired reliever Eric Gagne from the Texas Rangers in exchange for prospects. Then, of course, in July 2008 Epstein dealt slugger Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of three-team deal that brought Jason Bay to Boston from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Last summer, Epstein acquired a major player at the deadline when he sent three pitchers, including Justin Masterson, to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Martinez. The catcher's contract is up after this season and the Red Sox are already trying to sign him to an extension.
This summer's move remains to be seen, but you can bet Epstein is doing everything he can to improve the club this season and for the future, even if that means doing nothing at all.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.
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