Notes: Embree designated by Sox

Notes: Embree designated by Sox

BOSTON -- One of the most trusted members of the bullpen from the time he was acquired in June, 2002, through the end of the 2004 World Series, left-hander Alan Embree never got into any kind of rhythm for the Red Sox this season. His struggles were so pronounced that the Red Sox designated the veteran for assignment before Tuesday's game against the Devil Rays.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has 10 days to either trade or release Embree.

While serving as Boston's assistant general manager, Epstein was involved in the negotiations that led to Embree signing a two-year deal (with an option for a third) following the 2002 season.

Epstein admitted that the decision to break ties with Embree wasn't easy.

"That was difficult," Epstein said. "Alan's done a lot of great things here in Boston since we acquired him in the middle of the 2002 season. We've really stuck by him this year, trying to get him back on track and in the end, we felt it was just probably time for a change of scenery. But it was difficult to see him go. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears for the Red Sox and a lot of great moments, including being on the mound when we won the ALCS last year."

Epstein and manager Terry Francona both spoke to Embree earlier on Tuesday to inform him of the decision.

"It's not a real fun decision to make," said Francona. "We let him have a little bit of input. We kind of arrived at this because it's just not working out as consistently as we needed it to. Although he thinks he's maybe getting better, I think he acknowledges that it's been rough. He was about as professional as you can be. We talked to him for a while, and that's what we decided to do."

In addition, the Sox dealt Minor League right-hander Scott Cassidy to the Padres for utility outfielder Adam Hyzdu, who spent part of last season with the Red Sox. Hyzdu took Embree's spot on the roster, as the Red Sox went back to 11 pitchers.

Embree was 1-1 with a 7.65 ERA in 43 outings.

"It's been a tough road for him this year," said Francona. "He made some mistakes and he paid dearly over the middle of the plate, the first stretch. I thought he went through a stretch where he was actually making pitches, and it didn't matter. So it's some inconsistent pitching, coupled with some bad luck. It's coming up to that time of the year where things happen."

Embree, 35, is 29-32 with eight saves and a 4.62 ERA in 611 career appearances. During the last two Octobers, Embree came up big for Boston. In the 2003 run to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Embree didn't allow a run in eight appearances.

While helping the Red Sox win the World Series during the 2004 postseason, Embree registered a 2.45 ERA in 11 appearances.

His most lasting memory with the Red Sox will be inducing Ruben Sierra into a groundout to end Game 7 of the '04 ALCS at Yankee Stadium, finishing Boston's historic comeback from an 0-3 series deficit.

"There's nothing more satisfying than running and jumping at Jason [Varitek]," said Embree, following that monumental victory.

Embree officially reached the other extreme on Tuesday.

Kapler checks back in: Outfielder Gabe Kapler, eligible to come off the disabled list on July 30, made an appearance at Fenway Park on Tuesday. It was his first time back since being re-acquired last week as a free agent, following his release from the Yomiuri Giants of Japan.

Kapler, who had been bothered by lower back stiffness, got a clean bill of health and will be the designated hitter for Class A Lowell on Wednesday and Thursday. He's expected to join Triple-A Pawtucket by the weekend.

"He's on a schedule for the beginning of August," said Epstein.

With the addition of Hyzdu, whom the Red Sox traded to the Padres for Blaine Neal back in March, the Red Sox will have a right-handed hitting outfielder off the bench to bridge the gap until Kapler's arrival.

Hyzdu has spent most of the season in the Minor Leagues. He had 20 at-bats for the Padres earlier in the season, going 3-for-20 with four RBIs.

Schilling's progress: After his rough first outing as the closer, Curt Schilling has thrown three shutout innings. He earned his first save since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday.

"I thought [Monday] night was the best," said Francona before Tuesday's game. "When he starts throwing the ball downhill with some finish on his fastball, I think that's a pretty good indication that he's driving. I don't think you can pitch like that without driving the ball. You have to drive it downhill. I think [Monday], he did that really well."

Lineup switch: With the Red Sox in the midst of a six-game span in which they will face only left-handed starters, right-handed first baseman Kevin Millar moved to right field to replace left-handed Trot Nixon on Tuesday. Though he also bats left-handed, John Olerud got the start at first against Devil Rays southpaw Casey Fossum.

On deck: Left-hander David Wells (7-5, 4.73 ERA) will oppose left-hander Mark Hendrickson (4-6, 6.35) in Wednesday's rubber match of this three-game series.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.