Red Sox Spring Profiles: Andrew Bailey And Health

Andrew Bailey has been an effective closer in his three years in the majors, but he hasn't been a particularly healthy one. In his first season, he threw 83 innings; in the two seasons since, the right-hander has compiled 91 total frames. Part of that shift is usage, as Bailey pitched in 14 games he didn't close out in his rookie campaign of 2009 and just 10 since, but for the most part, the difference is due to time missed to injury.

The major hurt was way back in 2005, when Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery when he was still in college. He returned early enough to be drafted by the Athletics in the sixth round of the 2006 amateur entry draft, and started out at Low-A where he threw 58 innings that made it appear as if nothing were ever wrong: 2.02 ERA, over eight punch outs per nine, 2.6 K/BB, and stuff that low-level hitters just couldn't do anything with.

It's not a surprise the 22-year-old could hold Low-A hitters in check, but a real challenge came Bailey's way in 2007, when the Athletics deployed him at Single-A, High-A, and Triple-A in the same season. He was still a starter back then, and logged what remains a career-high 125 innings pitched. The 2008 season would see him split time as a reliever and a starter for Double-A Midland: he appeared in 37 games, 15 of them starts, and threw 110 innings.

There was plenty to like about those 110 frames -- Bailey struck out a batter per inning, kept hit rates low despite the relatively inferior defense of a Double-A team -- but his walk and homer rates were still somewhat concerning. The A's gave him a full-time gig in 2009 in the majors anyway, despite just the eight total innings in Triple-A and no lengthy dominance of the minors to his credit.

The plan worked, with Bailey's walk rates dropping significantly as a full-time reliever, and without any sacrifice made to his punch out totals. His 3.8 K/BB from his first taste of the majors remains a professional high for him, and in spite of the level jump he took. It was also the last time he was mostly healthy, as Baseball Prospectus's injury database shows:

Date On Transaction Games Side Body Part Injury
09/11/11 DTD 4 - Face Contusion
03/22/11 15-DL 52 Right Forearm Recovery from Strain
03/15/11 Camp 0 Right Forearm Strain
09/18/10 DTD 16 Right Elbow Surgery
07/21/10 15-DL 28
Trunk Strain
04/03/10 Camp 0 Left Knee Soreness
03/15/10 Camp 0 Left Elbow Inflammation
10/15/09 Off 0 Left Knee Surgery

He's only had the two disabled list stints, but he's made them count, missing 80 games in those stretches. Don't forget to throw in another 16 games from the end of 2010, though, when the A's didn't need to put Bailey on the DL thanks to expanded rosters.

Except for the off-season knee surgery, though, there's little in the way of major injuries here. The elbow surgery was to clean up loose bodies in an area that had already been surgically repaired, and the real injury -- a right forearm strain -- came in the spring of 2011 despite the A's (at least thinking they) were bringing him along slowly following the late-season procedure. Once he returned with his arm rested properly and healed up, it was a straight shot to the end of the season for Bailey. If you ignore the straight shot he took to the face that knocked him out for four games in September, anyway.

Let's not ignore that Bailey has an injury history, because it's right there, and it's extensive. His knee hasn't been an issue since it was fixed, though, and a forearm strain potentially caused by coming back a bit too soon from a cleanup surgery isn't an indicator of fragility. That's a designation that would have a different set of problems.

Bailey might be one of those pitchers who gets hurt by doing their job, even if it's not the same afflictions each year. He just hasn't pitched enough in the majors for us to know that, though. At the least, his injury history doesn't look like that of someone who is guaranteed to have recurring issues, so that gives him something to build on in his new home and fresh start.

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