BOSTON (AP) – The Boston Red Sox tried to bolster their struggling bullpen Wednesday, acquiring right-hander Chad Bradford from the Oakland Athletics in a trade for outfielder Jay Payton and cash considerations.

Bradford, on the disabled list since undergoing lower back surgery last March 7, is expected to be activated before the AL East leaders play the New York Yankees tonight at Fenway Park.

Four of Boston’s relievers have ERAs of more than 6.00 and two of those – closer Keith Foulke and Matt Mantei – are on the disabled list.

Bradford has a 21-15 lifetime record with seven saves and a 3.47 ERA for the A’s. The sidearmer spent part or all of the last four seasons with Oakland after playing the previous three years with the Chicago White Sox.

Payton, who was upset with his backup role after an offseason trade brought him from San Diego, was designated for assignment last Thursday.

He hit .263 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 55 games for Boston.

Red Sox sign top draft choice

The Boston Red Sox signed top draft pick Jacob Ellsbury and assigned the speedy outfielder to Single-A Lowell, the team announced on Wednesday. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Among Boston’s first 16 draft picks, only right-handed reliever Craig Hansen from St. John’s remains unsigned.

Ellsbury, a 21-year-old from Oregon State, is often compared to Boston’s Johnny Damon.

He batted .415 with a school-record 86 hits, playing errorless defense this season to earn honors as the Pac-10 co-player of the year.

Ellsbury hit .368 with 56 stolen bases, 162 runs scored, 36 doubles, 16 homers and 99 RBIs in three college seasons. Baseball America ranked him as the fastest baserunner among draft-eligible college players.

Boston selected Ellsbury 23rd overall.

Boston ace activated off disabled list

Curt Schilling was activated Wednesday after spending 21/2 months on the disabled list, and will be in the bullpen when the Boston Red Sox begin the second half of the season Thursday night against the New York Yankees.

Schilling is expected to work in relief until he’s ready to pitch long enough to reclaim his spot in the rotation after going on the disabled list April 29 with a bone bruise in his right ankle.

The Red Sox also were expected on Thursday to activate reliever Chad Bradford, acquired Wednesday from Oakland for outfielder Jay Payton after Bradford spent the entire season on the disabled list.

To make room on the roster, they optioned third baseman Kevin Youkilis to Triple-A Pawtucket and outrighted pitcher Scott Cassidy to Pawtucket.

Schilling made five rehabilitation appearances with Pawtucket, the last three as a reliever after he struggled in his second outing as a starter. Boston needs help in its bullpen where Keith Foulke, Alan Embree, Matt Mantei and John Halama all have ERAs over 6.00. Foulke and Mantei are on the disabled list.

Schilling pitched on consecutive nights last Saturday and Sunday for Pawtucket at Syracuse.

He worked one scoreless inning in each game – throwing seven pitches in a perfect inning then 16 when he faced four batters, allowing one hit.

“I want to be in the big leagues pitching, and I’m anxious to get back,” Schilling said after Sunday’s appearance.

“I felt good today. I felt stronger than I did yesterday, which is good.”

He had surgery during the offseason to repair a tendon in his right ankle and started this season on the disabled list.

He went 1-2 with an 8.15 ERA before bruising that ankle on April 23 and going on the disabled list April 29, retroactive to April 24.

In his relief appearances with Pawtucket, he had a 3.00 ERA with four strikeouts and no walks in three innings. In his two starts, he was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA.

Youkilis hit .286 with one homer and nine RBI in 31 games.

Cassidy, called up from Pawtucket last week, gave up three runs on four hits in one relief outing.

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