We're just a few weeks away from not having to pretend that this is a Red Sox jersey.. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Andrew Bailey, who hasn't pitched all season after undergoing thumb surgery following a spring training collision, is set to begin his rehab assignment on Wednesday after arriving in Florida on Monday. He's thrown batting practice and bullpen sessions, but it's finally time to take the next step towards joining the Red Sox. It comes at a good time, too, as Scott Atchison is on the disabled list, and the Red Sox are still looking for another impact arm at the back-end of the bullpen to replace him.
It was expected that Bailey would close for Boston this year, even after returning from injury, but that might not be the case. If you recall the start of the season, Alfredo Aceves felt he deserved to start, and was handed the closer's job after failing to secure a starter's spot, in part because he was fit for the gig, but also because it was more of an important role than that of just middle relief or setup in his own mind. That's not to say Boston made a personnel decision solely to keep a player happy, but more to say that setting themselves up to win also happened to coincide with the wants of Aceves, and this happy marriage of ideals has resulted in a 2.34 ERA, 557 opponent OPS, and 3.1 K/BB in his last 50 innings as closer.
Bailey sees no reason to change what's working, just because he's back:
"I don't really care. I just want to pitch," Bailey said. "At this point I've missed enough time to know that, he's done a hell of a job this year and the bullpen's been great all year. I just kind of want to find my role, whatever that is and finish this year and get to the playoffs. That's what our goal is.
"I've said that from day one, even in Oakland. I don't really care what I'm doing as long as I'm pitching in the big leagues and we're winning. That's all I care about. Individual stats aren't really a big thing for me."
Bailey has been an excellent closer for his career, and in the long run is likely a better fit for the role than Aceves, as the ceiling for his usage is much lower than that of Aceves, who could be a 90-100 inning relief horse in a non-closer role. With Boston's deep pen, though, and just two months left in the season, those particulars aren't as important as they were back on Opening Day when there were more questions about how the pen was going to hold up. It's good to see that there won't be any closer controversy based on Bailey feeling that being The Closer is his birthright simply because he's been there before.
Before Bailey can come back, though, some questions need to be answered about the 40-man roster, as it's still full up, and Bailey remains on the 60-day DL. For a player of his caliber, though, Boston won't be delaying things -- we just aren't quite sure how the room is opening up yet.