BOSTON – A few thoughts at the break.

With a second wild-card team added to the playoffs, even teams with mediocre .500 records (i.e. the Red Sox) are still thinking playoffs.

Of the 14 American League teams, only the Twins, Royals and Mariners can be considered out of it. Boston, Oakland and Toronto are all at 43-43, and only 21/2 games behind Baltimore, which currently has the second-best record (45-40) among wild- card contenders.

“We feel like we can still make a run at it,” Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford said. “That new wild card has made it possible for teams to make (a run) late in the season. Hopefully that’s the case for us.”

Crawford, on the disabled list all year, is hoping to begin his season this month and provide a spark.

With so many contending teams, it will be interesting to see what impact players are available at the trading deadline?

When you look at the Mariners, you obviously think of pitcher Felix Hernandez, but Seattle says he’s not on the block.

We’ll see.

 

WILL BOSTON BE A seller or buyer, or a little of both?

Because the Red Sox will be getting five players off the disabled list — pitchers Clay Buchholz and Andrew Bailey, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Crawford — that is as good as getting players in a trade — if they produce. Buchholz and Ellsbury are expected back this weekend. No timetable on the other three.

And if Boston wanted to improve its club now and/or for the future, here are five players Boston could trade.

Mike Aviles. Starting shortstop with a solid bat (44 RBI, third-best on the team), although he has cooled recently (.218 since June 20).

You trade Aviles, 31, because Pawtucket shortstop Jose Iglesias needs to be in Boston now. His hitting is coming around, and his glove is sensational (and Pedro Ciriaco seems like a capable backup).

Kelly Shoppach. Backup catcher who is very good defensively and is hitting better than expected (.269). He is on a one-year deal, while future major league catcher Ryan Lavarnway (.310/.863 OPS) is stuck in Pawtucket.

Daniel Nava. A switch-hitting left fielder who gets on base (.388 on-base percentage, second to Ortiz) and is steady in the field. Nava could be appealing to teams because he is cheap and dependable. But that is why Boston might hang on to him, especially as insurance to the currently-frail Crawford.

Lars Anderson, Triple-A first baseman. Anderson’s future with the Red Sox basically ended when Adrian Gonzalez was signed last year.

Mauro Gomez, backup corner infielder. Although he played third base for Boston last week in an emergency, Gomez is really only a first baseman and designated hitter. The Red Sox have a couple of guys in those roles. Gomez’ right-handed power bat might be appealing to someone.

 

WHAT WILL BOSTON do when the injured players come back?

Room has to be made for Buchholz and Pedroia (on the 15-day disabled list) and Ellsbury, Crawford and Bailey (all on the 60-day disabled list and currently not included on the 40-man roster). There is also the question of Daisuke Matsuzaka, but I don’t sense Boston being in a hurry to activate him.

To make room, players will have to be traded, sent down (if feasible) or let go (i.e. Darnell McDonald and Oscar Tejeda).

 

NAVA IS one of the players who may have to go. Nava, 29, could also go back to the minors.

On Sunday, a Boston radio reporter asked Nava is he has to “pinch himself” to believe he is in the majors. Nava smiled politely and said that feeling came during his debut in 2010, not after playing 52 games this year.

“I think when you’ve been up a certain amount of time,” Nava said later, “and you’ve been able to help the team, whether it’s myself or any other guy, you think, ‘you know, I think I can play here.”‘

Still, Nava knows the math of a crowded outfield that could include Ellsbury, Crawford, Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross and, possibly, utility player Brent Lillibridge.

“If it comes to that (having to leave Boston) — which I hope it doesn’t because I’d love to stay here — I think I’ve shown some other teams that I could play,” he said.

 

ALTHOUGH THE Yankees have a 91/2-game lead on the Red Sox, Boston Manager Bobby Valentine was not conceding anything.

“Anybody’s catchable,” he said. “They’ll have to come back (to the pack) a little. When you consider 20 percent of our games are against them, we could have something to do with that.”

Actually, its closer to 16 percent. And of Boston’s 12 remaining games with the Yankees, nine will be in New York.

 

JACKIE BRADLEY JR. was playing in Trenton this past weekend, but his name was mentioned often at Fenway Park.

When I cover games at Fenway, I’m often approached about what prospects are playing well in Portland. But this weekend, I wasn’t asked general questions. The buzz was all about Bradley. Is he is as good as his numbers?

The answer, of course, was yes. Bradley is on a fast track. Hadlock Field fans can only hope he stays the rest of the season.

And that season continues at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hadlock Field.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases