Bailey frustrated, but pragmatic, about injury

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Bailey frustrated, but pragmatic, about injury

DETROIT -- Andrew Bailey, the Red Sox' erstwhile closer, said he felt like he was experiencing the various stages of grief after learning he would need surgery on his ailing right thumb.
"I went through the phases of being frustrated,'' said Bailey in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, two days after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his right thumb, "then pissed off and all that kind of stuff.
"But you come to the realization that it is what it is, I've got to deal with it. I can't pitch with it, so I've got to get it fixed and move forward."
Obtained in an offseason deal with the Oakland A's, Bailey was the Red Sox' chosen replacement for free agent Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies last November.
Now, his absence has created a giant hole in the Red Sox bullpen and the team must make do without him.
"I'm obviously frustrated and disappointed,'' said Bailey. "I was trying to get off on the right start here and obviously that's not where I'm going.
"But the fact of the matter is, it is what it is. It's an unfortunate injury. I'm really disappointed. But the focus needs to be on the guys that are on the field and to know that I will be able to make it back this year and that the whole season isn't lost. There's a lot of good in that, but it's still very frustrating to start the season this way."
What's particularly tough for Bailey, who's had a variety of injuries in his career, is that the lastest setback "isn't really a throwing injury. I was just trying to be an athlete and cover first base and do something. It's just one of those freak things.''
Initially, Bailey didn't think much of the soreness he experienced after colliding with Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Alex Presley on March 21 in Bradenton, Fla.
"I really didn't think anything of it for a couple of days," said Bailey. "It wasn't until a few days later, with everyday activities, I felt a little weakness in my thumb, a little achiness. Looking back, I guess I could have spoken up then, but I just thought that it was maybe only a little something.
"I went out and pitched the next couple of times and didn't feel great. Each and every time out, it got worse and worse. After I threw the minor-league game on March 28, I had trouble gripping the baseball and there was a lot of pain involved. That was when I was like, 'All right, we've got to get on top of this thing.' It just kind of progressively got worse with the activity.''
Bailey was hoping against hope that he could pitch through it and have any necessary surgery after the season.
"The fact of the matter was,'' he said, "there was no option like that and we had to repair the ligament.''
In his absence, the Sox plan to go with Alfredo Aceves as the team's closer. Aceves was on the mound Thursday afternoon when the Sox suffered a walkoff loss to Detroit, though setup man Mark Melancon was charged with the loss.
Bailey was asked who he thought should close until he comes back.
"That's not really my decision,'' he said. "That's the manager's decision. Bullpens always figure themselves out. Roles are always changing. There's a lot of good arms down in that pen. Aceves has some great stuff and Mark's got some experience.
"The bullpen will be fine. I know they'll be all right. They'll hold it down until I get back. But right now, I'm just focused on myself and those are Bobby Valentine's decisions.''
Bailey will wear a soft cast on the thumb for the "next 10-14 days," and then wear a brace.
"I think after about two or three weeks, I'll be able to start doing the rehab process," he said, "and get some strength in there. As soon as the body lets me and the doctors give me the good word, that's what we're going to do. Once the guys get back, we'll be able to sit down with the trainers and kind of map out what the process is going to be."

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him.