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Papelbon claimed on waivers by AL team

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If the Red Sox fall out of contention and become sellers, their list of trade candidates will not include closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Papelbon has been claimed on waivers by an American League team, according to a major-league source.

The identity of the claiming team is not known, but the Red Sox are almost certain to pull back Papelbon, making him ineligible to be traded in August.

Virtually all players are placed on waivers in August. They must pass through each league in the reverse order of the standings, starting with their own league first.

If the Sox were so inclined, they could trade Papelbon to the claiming club. Such a move, however, would be self-defeating, leaving the team without a closer entering a critical four-game series at Yankee Stadium this weekend.

Papelbon, earning $9.35 million this season, is under club control through salary arbitration for one more season. The Red Sox could trade him this winter to open up the closer’s role for a more affordable right-handed reliever, Daniel Bard.

For now, the Sox trail the Rays by 6 1/2 games and the Yankees by six for the wild card. Injuries, however, could help force Boston out of the race before the Aug. 31 deadline for setting postseason rosters.

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While outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury rejoined the team on Wednesday, first baseman Kevin Youkilis has joined second baseman Dustin Pedroia, center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Varitek on the disabled list. Youkilis could be out for the season with a thumb injury.

Catcher Victor Martinez and third baseman Adrian Beltre, both potential free agents, are among the players the Sox could trade if they went into sell mode. DH Mike Lowell, who was activated from the DL on Tuesday, could also be traded. Designated hitter David Ortiz, as a player with 10 years of major-league service, five with the same club, would have the right to veto any deal.

Tagged: Red Sox, Jonathan Papelbon

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