Moments after agreeing in principle on a minor league deal with Kevin Millwood, the Red Sox made a trade Thursday night for former Colorado Rockies left-handed reliever Franklin Morales, who will immediately join a constantly shuffling bullpen.
Boston will send a player to be named later and cash to complete the deal. To make room on the 40-man roster, the club designated Hideki Okajima for assignment.
Morales, 25, went 7-11 with a 4.83 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Rockies. He served primarily out of the bullpen over the last three years. He was 0-1 with a 3.86 mark in 14 games this year.
"He's somebody we think has some upside if he's throwing strikes consistently," general manager Theo Epstein said. "He's a really hard thrower, a former top prospect. We think he has some upside there."
Morales has had some issues with command in his career. He has walked 86 men in 147 1/3 innings, including eight in 14 frames in 2010. He throws a fastball that can get into the mid-90s, and has a pretty effective curveball he has used quite a bit this year, helping to limit opponents to a .204 batting average. Morales has held lefties to a .185 (25-for-135) average in the course of his career.
The Venezuela native made two appearances in Colorado's loss to Boston in the 2007 World Series.
Epstein called Morales the "second reliever" behind Rich Hill, who has been very effective in throwing 4 2/3 scoreless innings since being called up earlier in the month. As for Okajima, the club may try to work out a trade or get him through waivers. If he clears waivers, he will head to Pawtucket, Epstein said.
Interestingly enough, what could be Okajima's last outing with the Red Sox was also his longest. He threw a career-high 43 pitches in two scoreless innings and got the win in an 11-inning victory over Minnesota on May 9. Okajima has not pitched since, although he was warming up in the bullpen during the club's 4-3 win over Detroit on Thursday.
Millwood was signed to a minor league contract earlier in the day, pending a physical. Epstein said he will head to Fort Myers to pitch in some extended spring training games. The veteran right-hander made three starts in the New York Yankees system before utilizing an opt-out clause in his contract earlier in the month and becoming a free agent.
Millwood is brought in to provide starting pitching depth at the end of a week that saw both John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka placed on the disabled list. Epstein said that the moves are not an indication of panic, but simply maneuvers to ensure that the depth they tried so hard to build up this offseason remains.
"Every club goes through these periods over the course of a season," he said. "That's why you have a Tim Wakefield to be able to step into the rotation. That's why we signed Alfredo Aceves, and that's why we have more depth at Triple-A and hopefully built some more depth today by signing Millwood.
Every club has to get through this sort of thing. You don't want them to happen at the same time, but they usually do, so you've got to weather it."
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