2011-12-15 / Sports

Sox make two moves

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox tweaked their bullpen and bench with a pair of moves Wednesday, acquiring reliever Mark Melancon and utility infielder Nick Punto in separate deals.

After losing closer Jonathan Papelbon in free agency last month, the Red Sox obtained Melancon from the Houston Astros in a trade for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-hander Kyle Weiland.

Hours later, the team announced it had signed Punto to a two-year contract. He replaces Lowrie — both are switch-hitters who can play all over the infield.

The 34-year-old Punto gets a $3 million, two-year deal. Rangy and reliable on defense, he batted .278 with one homer and 20 RBIs in 63 games with the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals last season. He had a .388 on-base percentage.

Melancon gives the Red Sox a potential replacement for Papelbon, who signed a $50,000,058, four-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Melancon had 20 saves for Houston this year, going 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA in 71 relief outings during his first full major league season.

The 26-year-old right-hander pitched a total of 35 games in 2009 and 2010 with the New York Yankees and Houston.

Weiland will be given a chance to win a spot in the Houston rotation. To make room on their 40-man roster, the Astros designated infielder Brian Bixler for assignment.

The 27-year-old Lowrie should fill a vacancy at shortstop for Houston. Clint Barmes started 120 games there last season, then signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Punto’s salary is $1.5 million each of the next two years. He can make an additional $250,000 each season in bonuses for days on the active roster.

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