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12/14/11 4:18 PM EST

Sox swap Lowrie for Astros reliever Melancon

Deal also includes right-hander Weiland, who heads to Houston

BOSTON -- The Red Sox added a potential closer candidate to their roster on Wednesday, dealing the oft-injured Jed Lowrie and pitching prospect Kyle Weiland to the Astros for right-hander Mark Melancon.

Melancon was installed as the Astros' closer in May, converting 20 of his 25 save opportunities and posting a 2.78 ERA over 74 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox have had a closer vacancy since Nov. 11, when Jonathan Papelbon agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies. Though Daniel Bard could emerge as a candidate at closer, the plan for Spring Training is to see if he can make the starting rotation.

Alfredo Aceves and Bobby Jenks are other pitchers who could wind up competing with Melancon for the closer's role. The club could elect to sign Ryan Madson, who closed for the Phillies in 2011, or swing a trade for someone like A's closer Andrew Bailey.

The switch-hitting Lowrie was selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. By July 2008, he became the starting shortstop for Boston in the middle of a pennant race.

However, in the ensuing three seasons, he could never stay healthy for a prolonged period, dealing with wrist and shoulder problems, not to mention a prolonged bout with mononucleosis that delayed the start of his 2010 season until July.

Once the Red Sox decided to pick up Marco Scutaro's club option for 2011, there didn't seem to be a starting role on the team for Lowrie, whose biggest strength is his ability to hit left-handed pitching.

Moving mostly between shortstop and third base, but also spending some time at second and first, Lowrie played in 256 games over four seasons, hitting .252 with 19 home runs and 117 RBIs. Lowrie played a career-high 88 games in 2011 and hit .252 with six home runs and 36 RBIs.

Lowrie also had a memorable moment on defense in 2011, starting a 5-4-3 triple play against the Rays on Aug. 16 at Fenway Park.

Melancon figures to be a familiar face in the American League East -- he made his Major League debut in 2009 with the Yankees, pitching in 15 games with New York between '09 and '10 and putting together a 0-1 record and a 4.87 ERA.

Weiland was a third-round pick of the Red Sox in the 2008 Draft. He made his Major League debut in 2011 but struggled in limited time as a spot starter and reliever. Weiland, who started five games in seven appearances, went 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, with 13 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.