Bailey (thumb) returning to Boston for examination

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Bailey (thumb) returning to Boston for examination

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Just as the Red Sox got the front end of their pitching staff settled Sunday, the back end developed some unexpected problems, bringing more uncertainty to the roster days before the start of the season.

Closer Andrew Bailey will fly to Boston Monday to have his injured right thumb examined, with the possibility -- if not likelihood -- that he will start the season on the disabled list.

The Red Sox seem unsure of how Bailey suffered the injury in the first place. Manager Bobby Valentine guessed that it may have been the result of a collision near first base while pitching against the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 21.

"When he went down, the only thing I can think of, (he fell on the thumb) after the collision,'' said Valentine, "and with the adrenaline, didn't even realize that anything happened. But I don't know.

"I asked everyone if they saw anything. He doesn't have anything (in terms of an explanation). So, we'll see.''

Since the incident in Brandeton against the Pirates, Bailey has pitched three times: March 24-in back-to-back appearances against the Phillies and Blue Jays, then again on March 28 in a minor league game.

The fact that his last appearance came in a minor league game may be fortuitious, since it would allow Bailey to be placed on the DL retroactively for as many as nine days. Under such a scenario, Bailey could conceivalbly miss only six days (and four games) if the Sox place him on the DL.

"I'm not sure how likely it is (he begins on the DL),'' said Valentine. "(But) he hasn't pitched in a while.''

If Bailey is out for the start of the season, Valentine said the team has "good options'' to fill in for him in the closer's role.

"Things have been done accordingly to make sure we're covered there,'' he said. "With him, there's got to be a plan when (he's unavailable because of workload). Now, there's that plan plus somebody else.''

It would seem that Valentine's two primary options are Mark Melancon -- who had 20 saves in 25 opportunities last season for Houston -- and Alfredo Aceves, whom Valentine has repeatedly said he could entrust with innings at the end of games.

Some question how Melancon's stuff will play in the American League East -- as opposed to the N.L. Central -- which could give Aceves a leg up and a chance to handle the ninth should Bailey miss time.

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