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The Oakland A’s get Willie McGee and Harold Baines. The Red Sox get Larry Andersen. Is it like countering a nuclear attack with a squirt gun?

“I don’t care about their deal,” said Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman. ‘‘I tried to get this guy three weeks ago.”

Three weeks ago, the Houston Astros were evidently holding out for Babe Ruth for the 37-year-old reliever. So the Red Sox gave them Lou Gehrig. Well, not quite, but third baseman Jeff Bagwell, a University of Hartford product, was considered one of Boston’s best prospects. Bagwell, who played all season in Double A New Britain, hit .333 with 4 home runs and 61 RBIs.

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“We had depth at third base with Wade Boggs, Tim Naehring and Scott Cooper,” said Gorman. “It was one area where we could afford to lose a player in order to get a pitcher who could help us win the pennant. If we win the pennant with Andersen, the deal is worth it.”

Andersen, who is eligible for the Sox’ 25-man playoff roster, is considered one of the best setup men in the National League. The righthander, a sinker- slider pitcher, is signed through the 1991 season at $965,000 per year. His ‘91 salary kicked in after he made his 45th appearance. There is some question whether Andersen will be granted free agency next year as a result of the Collusion 1987 ruling, which affected him. He appeared in 50 games for Houston, posting a 5-2 record, 6 saves and a 1.95 ERA.

Daryl Irvine was sent down to Pawtucket to make room for Andersen.

“It’s a great opportunity going to a contending team,” said Andersen. ‘‘But I’ve gotten real comfortable here, so it’s hard to leave. This is where I’ve rejuvenated my career. I’ll never forget it.”

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Andersen, who owns a 32-30 career record and 33 saves with a 3.20 ERA, is said not to relish the closer’s role and would prefer to be a setup man. He signed with Cleveland in 1971, three years after Bagwell was born, and joined the Indians’ staff in 1975. He also pitched for the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies.

Asked if the Red Sox gave up too much for Andersen, Joe Morgan said, ‘‘We’ll find out in the long run. We’ve got Boggs, Naehring and Cooper, so we’re well stocked. Bagwell is a very aggressive hitter who hits the ball where it’s pitched. But he has some work to do at third base.”

A few Red Sox players who played in the National League think very highly of Andersen. One of the big aspects of the acquisition is that it fills one of Boston’s biggest needs down the stretch -- a middle reliever to help Dennis Lamp. He also fits into the “good-guy” category so as not to disrupt team karma.

“He’s tough on righthanded hitters,” said Tony Pena. “He’s got a tough

slider. He reminds me of Dana Kiecker.”

Mike Marshall has faced Andersen. “He throws those hard sliders, and it’s awfully tough for a righthanded hitter to hit against him,” said Marshall. ‘‘I don’t ever remember getting a real hard hit off him.”


This article first appeared in the Boston Globe on Sept. 1, 1990.