With Bailey needing surgery, Red Sox bullpen unstable

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With Bailey needing surgery, Red Sox bullpen unstable

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The news on Andrew Bailey was as bad as the Red Sox had feared.

Bailey, obtained in an off-season deal with the Oakland A's to serve as the replacement for departed free agent Jonathan Papelbon, will require surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.

Bailey spent Tuesday in Cleveland being examined by noted hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, who has performed thumb surgeries on both Kevin Youkilis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in recent years.

The surgery will take place Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic. A baseball source familiar with the situation estimated that Bailey's recovery time would take anywhere from three to four months.

"I don't think it will be before the All-Star break, is what the trainer told me," said manager Bobby Valentine.

Bailey's loss, just two days before the 2012 season opener, throws the Red Sox bullpen into chaos, with roles changing.

"The guys that you've seen in the bullpen are going to hold down the fort," said Bobby Valentine after the Sox held off the Washington Nationals, 8-7, "and do the job to help us win a lot of games. I think you saw (Alfredo) Aceves there (in the eighth inning) -- think you'll see him at the end of games. (Mark) Melancon will be at the end of games,
for sure.

Valentine also hinted that he had spoken to the relievers in question about his plan, but wouldn't reveal anything further.

"I did everything I had to do, I think, yeah," he said. "They're all settled, I'm settled. In Detroit, we'll find out what it was, hopefully on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday."

"I haven't heard anything yet," insisted Melancon, who was 20-for-25 in save opportunities for Houston last season. "It's unfortunate that Bailey's out. It's very unfortunate, but we've got a good bullpen and we'll be alright.

"I think we have some guys who can do that. But like in anything, experience helps. But no matter what happens, we'll be alright."

Even before they got the official word that surgery would be necessary, GM Ben Cherington labeled Bailey's situation "an acute injury."

"I'm confident that we have pitchers who can get the final out of the game," said Valentine. "It's just the rest of the grouping that's a work in progress. I'd like to think of it that we'll have a plan where there will be a person that will be designated for that role with others who can do it when he's not available -- if it all falls in line perfectly."

Before the game, Valentine maintained that the Sox weren't entirely able to pinpoint the timing of the injury. The best guess the Red Sox have is that Bailey suffered the injury after a collision near first base on March 21 in Bradenton, FL., when the Sox played the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"That's the best we can figure," said Cherington. "The onset of the pain happened shortly after that and he's never had any soreness before that. And there was clearly a collision where he fell on the ground and hit it. So that's our best guess as to when it happened."

If Bailey is going to miss half the season or more, the Red Sox must find a trustworthy replacement to close out games.

"I think we've got a number of guys who have done it a little bit," said Cherington, "who we think are capable of doing it. Ultimately, that's up to Bobby (to determine) who he brings in for the ninth inning. But there's a number of guys out there who have had some saves, have pitched late in games.

"This is an opportunity for some guys to step up and maybe pitch in a different role than they would have before. I think when you lose one guy out of the bullpen, no matter who it is or what the role is, there's a little bit of a ripple effect on other guys."

When asked specifically about the possibility of moving Daniel Bard back to the bullpen -- either to close or set-up -- Cherington was emphatic.

"The decision was made (for him to start)," he said. "He's going to pitch the (fifth game) in Toronto. We're committed to him as a starter right now."

Echoed Valentine: "I think he's finally feeling good about being there (in the rotation) and I see no reason, at this time, to change strokes in mid-stream."

"It's tough," acknowledged Saltalamacchia, "because he's a big key to this team's success, going from this year and in the future as well. It's frustrating, but at the same time, if he's going to do it, this is the time to do it and get it done so we can have him for the last half of the season, rather than him playing through it and then being out for
the season.

"But at the same time, just talking to him, I know he doesn't want to (miss time); he wants to play. If there's a way of playing without having the surgery, I think he's going to try and find a way to do it. But he's got to do what's right for him and get ready to play the rest of the season. Because we're going to need him from that second half of
the season on."

"We lost our guy," concluded Melancon, "but we're going to figure it out. It's going to be good."

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.