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Epstein swings, misses on Garcia

The prize hitter, Carlos Beltran, has gone to Houston, and now the prize pitcher, Freddy Garcia, has gone to the Chicago White Sox.

Garcia yesterday was dealt from Seattle, along with catcher Ben Davis and cash, for catcher Miguel Olivo and two prospects -- outfielder Jeremy Reed and infielder Michael Morse. The Red Sox didn't have anyone of Reed's caliber in their minor league system to give up. While general manager Theo Epstein explored the options on Garcia, in the end the White Sox got him, and suddenly they look very strong.

As was the case with Beltran, however, the Sox could take comfort in the fact that the 27-year-old Garcia did not go to the Yankees.

Epstein said yesterday he has not given up on the Sox becoming more consistent and living up to their potential. And the 12-3 win over the Phillies certainly cemented Epstein's opinion.

"We've set very high standards and we haven't met those standards so far, and that's disappointing," Epstein said before yesterday's win. "I think that's going to turn around, but it's going to be with these players right here.

"I will be open-minded to making changes. Right now, we're going to make changes when they benefit us."

Epstein added, "We've played .500 ball for two months and that's a disappointment. We haven't met our standards. We had high expectations, and we still believe this group can turn it around. We still feel we have ways we can improve inside and outside this organization." Sox fans got a first-hand look at Garcia May 29, when he earned the win in Seattle's 5-4 victory at Fenway Park, allowing four runs in 5 2/3 innings. Garcia has gone 1-4 since, but hasn't allowed more than four runs in any of those starts, a victim of the Mariners' sporadic offense. Garcia is a deceptive 4-7, ranking fifth in the league in ERA (3.20), innings (107), and strikeouts (82).

Of the upcoming series against the Yankees, Epstein said, "Any time you play a team that's in your division and they're a playoff contender, it's very important. Every time we play those guys it's important. Look at our schedule and we're playing a lot of good teams right now, so it's important for us to play well."

Epstein said the biggest frustration of the season was "we had scored more runs than the Yankees and allowed fewer runs than the Yankees. What's frustrating is our inefficiency. Right now we're just not finding ways to win games. We're 5-8 in one-run games and that's gotta change. A lot of that falls on our defense and base running. We have to get better, and I think they will."

Epstein said "the Yankees are finding ways to win games and we're not. Do I think we're as talented as any team in baseball? Yeah, when we're healthy and playing well, and we're not playing well right now. We have our work cut out for us. Do we have as much potential as any team in baseball? Yeah. [But] that's not a word you want to use at the big league level -- we have to start finding ways to win games."

Not long after Epstein spoke the Sox found a way.

Reese takes BP

Pokey Reese took batting practice and also experimented with two gloves (and splints) in the field. Reese, who sprained his left thumb after a backhanded diving attempt on a ground ball Wednesday night, believes he can play the field starting tomorrow night in New York. Reese didn't seem to have major discomfort swinging the bat, except the stinging that would be expected in the tender area. Reese was trying to find ways to field without his thumb taking the brunt . . . Bill Mueller came back to Boston after going 0 for 2 with a walk at Pawtucket Saturday night. Mueller was to fly to Norfolk, Va., to rejoin the PawSox for a four-game series starting tomorrow night. Mueller expects to stay for the four games, and while the Sox aren't speculating on when he will return, a good bet could be the Fourth of July weekend series in Atlanta. Mueller said yesterday he felt good after the game, but he believes he needs to get into baseball shape. "We're just trying to evaluate it after each game and see where we are," Mueller said . . . Ellis Burks also was heading to Norfolk and will DH there. Burks also is optimistic that he could return as early as the Atlanta series. Burks has not had any swelling in his left knee for more than a week, a sign he could be ready for some playing time. Burks will not be able to help the Sox in the field, however, as the elbow he underwent surgery on in the offseason has not responded well.

Comfortably numb

Third baseman Kevin Youkilis felt discomfort in his left (glove) hand after he banged his elbow against the third base railing while pursuing a foul ball by the opening batter. Youkilis said the impact on the steel and concrete caused numbness down to his hand, which he shook often during the game. He iced it afterward and had some swelling, but said, "I should be OK. It was a little tingly, but stuff like that happens all the time. Sometimes when you get hit with a pitch in that area you have the same sensation." . . . Epstein said there was no timetable on when Byung Hyun Kim would return. Kim threw two near-perfect innings for Pawtucket yesterday, allowing a single to start the game, then retiring the next six batters in 20 pitches . . . If Ramiro Mendoza finally shows he's healthy -- after recently suffering a stiff neck while napping in the PawSox clubhouse -- speculation is that he might be moved to Baltimore. 

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