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.

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."