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Desperate Bosox take Marlon Byrd off Cubs’ hands

Updated: May 24, 2012 8:17AM

If it looks as if the Cubs have opened a wide path for top outfield prospect Brett Jackson to make his major-league debut this year, it’s because they have.

But the long-expected trade of Marlon Byrd on Saturday is more about the Cubs taking advantage of an urgent need of the Boston Red Sox and moving a player they’ve looked for months to trade in their search for pitching depth.

“Brett’s a big part of our future, but I wouldn’t read anything into this deal as far as when we might bring him up,’’ said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who got right-handed reliever Michael Bowden, along with another pitcher as a player to be named later in the deal.

Hoyer said he expects to decide sometime next month on the second pitcher from a list of agreed-upon names. But Bowden will go directly into the big-league bullpen.

The Cubs also sent most of the $5.9 million remaining on the final year of Byrd’s three-year contract.

The Cubs looked at the Red Sox as a potential landing spot for Byrd since center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury’s shoulder injury April 13, and Hoyer said they reached out to the Cubs soon after. By the time Ellsbury’s replacement, Jason Repko, also suffered a shoulder injury on Friday, the teams “were pretty far down the line’’ on the Byrd deal.

Bowden, 25, who’s from Aurora, has a 5.61 career ERA in 39 appearances (37 in relief) over parts of five seasons. He was a 2005 supplemental first-round draft pick 2005 by the Red Sox under Hoyer, current Cubs president Theo Epstein and current Cubs scouting/player development boss Jason McLeod.

Byrd, a 2010 All-Star in his first season with the Cubs, has three singles in 43 at-bats this season (.070) after finishing last season with a .142 September.

One new teammate is the guy who dramatically altered Byrd’s 2011 season with a fastball that fractured the left side of his face on May 21 at Fenway Park. Alfredo Aceves is the Red Sox’ struggling first-year closer.

Byrd was hitting .308 before getting hit by Aceves’ pitch — .230 since.

Hoyer said Byrd’s slow start had nothing to do with the trade and expects the fresh start to help him.

“We’d talked about some deals at the end of spring training,’’ he said. “We’d been trying to acquire relief pitching since the end of the winter, and an area we feel we have some surplus and young players we want to play is in the outfield.’’

Eventually, that figures to involve a big-league debut for Jackson this season. For now, Hoyer said, just-recalled Tony Campana as well as Reed Johnson and Joe Mather are among manager Dale Sveum’s center-field options.

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