Andrew Bailey blew his third save in the last 10 games on Thursday, and in a fitting bit of baseball-themed decision making, it's three strikes and he's out as the Red Sox closer. While Bailey is clearly a talented arm, it's even more obvious that something is amiss at the moment, something that is costing the Red Sox in the form of ninth-inning opponent homers.
"Yeah, I think so," said manager John Farrell, when asked if Bailey might have to switch roles at least temporarily. "Whether that's backing him out of that to get him some work to get on track a little bit more, or what the internal options are and out of fairness to Andrew and others down there late in the game, we'll talk more about that internally to make a potential change."
There are obvious options on hand to replace Bailey in the ninth, in the form of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara. Tazawa took the role last time Bailey was on the disabled list, as the Red Sox don't necessarily want to use Uehara on back-to-back days. If you had to bet on an arm to don the closer's role while Bailey and the Red Sox heal what ails him, it should be Tazawa.
There are three paths here for the Sox to take. If Bailey has an injury he's been working through, a la Clayton Mortensen earlier this month, he could be placed on the disabled list and put on a rehab assignment, giving him time to work things out in the minors. If there is no injury, but his performance is considered problematic enough that they don't want him working in big-league games, he does have all three options remaining to him -- they could send him to the minors to work things out, like they did with Mark Melancon in 2012, though, it would be more like the Daniel Bard situation since it's been over three years since Bailey debuted, and he would need to clear waivers. Like with Bard, though, there's sort of a gentleman's agreement that other teams won't claim players optioned through waivers.
Last, there is keeping him around in the majors, but working him back slowly and in low-leverage situations, until the Sox are sure that whatever problem he has had of late is gone. These choices are all viable, and all have their problems, too. We'll see soon enough which direction the Red Sox head in.
Read more Red Sox:
- Can the Red Sox rotation hold up?
- MLB Draft 2013: Red Sox sign first-round pick Trey Ball
- Jonny Gomes hits walk-off homer, punts helmet
- Jose Iglesias has majors’ longest hit streak