FORT MYERS, Fla. Andrew Bailey knows the comparisons and the questions are inevitable. Replacing the most prolific closer in Red Sox history is not an easy task.
Bailey, the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year, was acquired in a December trade from Oakland. He has 75 career saves in three seasons with the As, while Papelbon has 219. Bailey, the two-time All Star, just wants to be himself.
Yeah, thats it, Bailey said. Paps obviously himself. Ive met him a couple times, and hes a good dude. So, hes moved on. Were two totally different pitchers. My goal is to kind of have the media ask the guy who follows me those questions. How are you going to replace Bailey? Thats kind of my goal. So, if I stick with that, Im sure Ill be all right.
Papelbon said Saturday from Bright House Field, spring training home of the Phillies, whom he joined as a free agent in October, he believed Bailey would be successful with the Sox.
Hes one of the best in the game, so its an honor coming from him, something like that, Bailey said. Hes done it here for a while. He knows what it takes, and If he believes in it. I know I can do it, Im looking to have the Fenway Park crowd on my side running out of those gates instead of rooting against me. So, coming out of the bullpen is always an adrenaline rush and Im looking forward to doing it in that uniform.
Bailey, who turns 28 in May, enters spring training fully healthy for the first time in his big league career. He did not make his first appearance until May 29 last season, sidelined by a strained right forearm.
Health is good, he said. Finished strong last year. Obviously, had a little battle, had to miss two months in the beginning of last year. But thats behind me and this is honestly the first healthy offseason Ive had in the big leagues. So looking forward to that and was able to start throwing a little earlier and not having to rehab anything until the middle of December.
Bailey grew up in New Jersey, went to Wagner College on Staten Island, and now lives in Connecticut. He knows as well as anyone the expectations put on a Red Sox pitcher.
Im a closer at heart, but Ill do anything to help the team win, he said. I said that in Oakland, whatever it takes. You look at my games, one, two innings, one plus, whatever the team needs.
I have that mentality of being aggressive. I live and die by strike one. Its the best pitch in baseball. I just kind of go out there, throw the ball as hard as I can. Theres nothing fancy about what I do. So thats kind my mentality. I think that fits the closers role pretty good.
Many of his college buddies are now former Yankees fans, Bailey said, jumping on the Sox bandwagon with him. One of the most common questions hes heard since joining the team: What will his entrance music be?
No idea, he said. I dont know how that works here. Supposedly they chose it for Pap. So I dont know whats going to go on. But, for me, I like to feed off the crowd, the adrenaline. So, if I get to choose, itll probably be something rock. Maybe Ill throw a little Boston twist in there with Aerosmith or something. But, well see. Maybe Godsmack.
Bailey admits theres one comparison to Papelbon he doesnt mind. Asked if he would dance in his boxer shorts on the Fenway lawn if the Sox won another World Series, Bailey replied:
Ill do anything to win the World Series. So you guys can keep me to that, too. Whatever you guys need me to do to win a World Series, Ill do it.