With Bailey needing surgery, Red Sox bullpen unstable

With Bailey needing surgery, Red Sox bullpen unstable
April 4, 2012, 12:11 am
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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."