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Peņa goes to Nationals

Outfielder wasn't good fit in Boston

As his bat goes flying, Manny Ramírez goes down in the eighth inning of the opener after being hit by a pitch for the second time. As his bat goes flying, Manny Ramírez goes down in the eighth inning of the opener after being hit by a pitch for the second time. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)

Because he believed in Wily Mo Peña's potential, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein set aside his friendship with pitcher Bronson Arroyo and certain hostile fan reaction to trade Arroyo for the unfinished slugger 17 months ago.

Yesterday, Epstein traded Peña to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named, and acknowledged that the acquisition of Peña had fallen short of projections.

"It didn't turn out the way we wanted it to," Epstein said between games of the doubleheader against the Angels. "In terms of a pure talent standpoint, it's still subject to debate. There's a chance he could still blossom as a hitter. But here the fit never materialized . . . That's one we'd probably like back. Trades, they don't all work out."

The trade was announced minutes before Game 1. The Sox moved Peña to create a roster spot for pitcher Clay Buchholz, who won his big league debut, then was optioned back to Pawtucket to make room for Jacoby Ellsbury, who led off and played center field last night.

Ellsbury was expected to return to Pawtucket after last night's game, with Bobby Kielty, the former Oakland outfielder signed to a minor league deal Aug. 6, getting promoted in time for tonight's game. The switch-hitting Kielty is expected to stick as Peña's replacement, primarily because he gives manager Terry Francona a righthanded-hitting option off the bench.

Epstein said he was not in a position to reveal the identity of the player acquired from the Nationals. "We're actually pretty pleased with the way things turned out," he said. "We're getting a player we really like.

"We're fairly happy with the resolution, given the circumstances. As far as the bigger picture, I think the fact that we traded Wily Mo doesn't mean we don't necessarily believe in his talent, but we were kind of running out of time for the fit to happen.

"It's tough for a 25-year-old kid not to get everyday at-bats. This is probably best for him, giving him a place he can play every day, and we get a player back we like quite a bit.

"The bench we have going forward in August and September is more functional for this particular club. It's unfortunate. I don't think we were selling high. You never like to sell low on a guy."

According to one source with direct knowledge of the deal, the player the Sox will receive is in another organization: Chris Carter, a lefthanded-hitting first baseman and former Stanford star who is batting .328 with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs for Tucson, Arizona's Triple A affiliate. For Carter to come to the Red Sox from Washington, of course, the Nationals would first have to trade for him. Washington GM Jim Bowden would not comment last night through a Nationals spokesman.

Peña batted just .218 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 73 games for the Sox, 40 of them starts. That was a major dropoff from the .301, 11, 42 he posted last season in 84 games. His performance especially suffered at Fenway Park, where he hit a ghastly .134 (11 for 82) with one home run and four RBIs; last season in the Fens, he hit .322 (48 for 149) with five home runs and 24 RBIs.

In going to Washington, Peña will be reunited with Bowden, who traded for him once before when he was with Cincinnati and Peña was in the Yankees' system.

"He's the type of player who needs to play every single day," Bowden said. "When you need to work on your defense and you're striking out once every three times, you're not the kind of player who can come off the bench and help a team."

Bowden said the plan at first is to have Peña platoon with Ryan Church in left field.

"We told him that he's out of shape," Bowden said. "We need to get him in shape and baseball-ready. But we also know his power."

Proud father
Skip Buchholz on his son's major league debut: "It was unbelievable. Nothing like it. Words can't describe it. I was very nervous, not for myself but for him. I was scared for him. But he did a fantastic job, just like he always has. Thirty-eight thousand people standing in front of you. I mean, he's pitched in front of nine, 10, 11 thousand, but 38? He started out a little shaky but he recovered very well. I was worried watched him warming up. He looked real calm. I'm sure he had a thousand things going through his head, but he really came through for us. And himself." . . . Manny Ramírez twice was hit by pitches in Game 1, the first time since July 18, 2002, he's been hit twice in a game . . . The WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon raised $3.56 million, with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt donating $50,000 in honor of Jimmy Fund chairman Mike Andrews, bringing the total over the $3 million mark . . . Bill Arnold of the Sports Features Group notes that with the death of former Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto Monday at age 89, Sox legend Bobby Doerr becomes the oldest living Hall of Fame player. Doerr is 89.

Amalie Benjamin of the Globe staff contributed to this report.