Bailey looks to finish strong, make his mark next season

866807.jpg

Bailey looks to finish strong, make his mark next season

BOSTON Since coming off the disabled list to make his season debut Aug. 14, Andrew Bailey has made seven appearances, spanning 5 13 innings, posting a 1.69 ERA, with a hold, a blown save, and a save.

It wasnt a save situation on Monday, but he pitched a scoreless ninth, with one walk, as the Red Sox beat the Royals, 5-1, in the homestand finale.

Bailey is glad to be back on the mound and healthy.

I feel really good, he said. Obviously, a lot of time off but this is the best Ive felt in quite some time and its just nice to get back into a regular schedule and not having any limitations, just feeling good all around.

He has appeared in four of the five games, including three straight, since Thursday. Pitching four innings in that span, he allowed one earned run, with a hit, a walk, and a strikeout. He likes having the regular work.

A lot of times, especially as relievers, when you dont see the mound for three or four days its reallyy important to get your mound work in during BP or whenever and make sure you stay fresh, he said. But when youre pitching consistently and feeling good, thats always a positive sign and you just get up there and do your thing. And sometimes when youre way from the game or dont get in for a little bit it takes some getting used to even though its just a couple days. But not matter what, Im ready to go and I feel good.

And now, with his return to full health and the sudden uncertain status of Alfredo Aceves, whose three-game suspension imposed by the team was completed on Monday, the closers role is available. Manager Bobby Valentine said before Mondays game he has not determined who his closer will be for the rest of the season. But, its the role for which the Sox acquired Bailey in the offseason. For his part, though, Bailey is willing to serve whatever role he can.

At this point in time, were trying to win ballgames and its been a frustrating year all around from an injury standpoint and the way we were performing, he said. But coming in here and winning these games is important. Im not really in it for individual stats. I think as a bullpen a lot of times the games are won and lost in the sixth, seventh innings. Sometimes thats more important than whos closing and getting the last three outs. So, for me, its whatever role we can have success with as a staff down there and show that we can do the job. Thats whats important.

But he would like to be able to show that he can be the pitcher the Sox acquired in a trade with the As in December. The one who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2009 and a two-time All-Star, the one who had 75 saves over the last three seasons.

He knows his health has been a concern. And a fluke injury in spring training which necessitated the surgery on his right thumb that sidelined him for most of the season was a concern. Hes anxious to show what he can do.

Theres a reason they make trades and they wanted what they saw when I was healthy, he said. Theres no question in my mind I can do that and bring that to the table here in Boston. Its just a matter of going out there and doing it. So, for me, Im the same person out there no matter what my role is and Im going to give my all every single time. Hopefully, it continues in the right direction.

While hes not concerned with putting up individual stats over the remainder of the season, he does have certain goals he would like to accomplish.

Obviously, number one stay healthy and finish strong, he said. I think about the closers role, I think whatever happens happens, and next year hopefully Im at the top of that list. But for this year I think as a bullpen staff in general I think its important that we go out there and do our jobs."

And now, with the Sox blockbuster, nine-player trade completed, the hope is that the chaos that has surrounded the team for most of the season has quieted down, allowing the team to concentrate on baseball for the rest of the season.

Obviously weve had a lot of drama this year, so to speak, and I think now that the organization has made its mind up in which direction it wants to go, Bailey said. I think its just back to baseball and with so many questions flowing around the last couple weeks now its kind of a sense of Alright, its over with. Its done with. Lets focus on the game. We always come here with the goal in mind of winning a game but its just nice to get back to baseball.

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

McAdam: Buchholz is the relief the Red Sox need

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- This is the kind of season it has been for Clay Buchholz:

A little more than a month ago, he was merely taking up space on the Red Sox roster, having been summarily removed from the rotation after three months of poor outings.

He was in the bullpen, but the Sox were loathe to use him. Asked, memorably, why Buchholz hadn't been the choice to serve as a long reliever in a game in which the starter departed early, John Farrell candidly noted, in not so many words, that because the Sox still had a chance to win the game, Buchholz didn't make sense as an option.

Ouch.

But slowly, Buchholz became more effective in his new relief role. And when injuries struck the rotation, Buchholz got himself three cameo starts, during which he posted a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings, topped by Tuesday's beauty -- 6 1/3 innings, one run allowed, nine strikeouts recorded.

Just as Buchholz has straightened out, however, Red Sox starters are suddenly stacked up like jets waiting for clearance to land at Logan Airport. Steven Wright returns from a brief DL stint Friday, and Eduardo Rodriguez is not far behind.

When he pitched poorly, the Red Sox didn't have any other options.

When he pitched well, the Red Sox have plenty of other choices.

So, now what?

"As far as Clay goes,'' said John Farrell, "this will be, I'm sure, a conversation (had) within (the organization). But setting that aside, he's throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.''

That's indisputable.

But the question remains: In what capacity will he throw the ball in the near future?

There's been a suggestion to keep Buchholz in the rotation while moving Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen. That would give the Sox a dependable lefty in relief -- as opposed to, say, Fernando Abad -- while also serving the dual purpose of putting a governor on Pomeranz's climbing innings total.

Pomeranz, who has plenty of bullpen experience in the big leagues, has also thrown 140 1/3 innings this season, eclipsing his previous major league high by nearly 40.

But Pomeranz is 27, not 21. He's shown no signs of fatigue. To the contrary, he's 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. The Sox shouldn't mess with his success.

Instead, Buchholz should become one of the team's high-leverage set-up weapons, available in the seventh or eighth inning.

True, Buchholz doesn't have the swing-and-miss capability you'd prefer to have in the eighth inning, where the fewer balls put in play, the better off you are. But he can get lefties and righties out, and, pitching out of the stretch full-time, he's greatly improved his command.

Buchholz would remain the best option for a spot start if one of the five Red Sox starters faltered or got hurt. But the bullpen remains the best choice for him.

Ironic, isn't it? When he pitched poorly, he remained in the rotation for several months. Now that he's pitching superbly, he can't earn a permanent spot.

It's been that kind of season.

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

McAdam: Will this be Clay Buchholz's last start?

With Wright and Rodriguez set to return, Sean McAdam joins SNC to discuss whether Tuesday’s game against the Rays will be the last start for Clay Buchholz.