As we've already mentioned today, the focus of Red Sox fans (and beats) everywhere is on the bullpen because, y'know, we've only got the one game, and any game can only provide so many plot lines.
One of the major reasons for the increased scrutiny is, of course, the loss of Andrew Bailey, who today took part in a conference call to talk about his injury, and what kind of impact he expects to have on the team.
The only date we've had to think about regarding Bailey is the All-Star break, with Bobby Valentine saying he won't be back until then. So when bailey uses his own phrasing:
"I know from what typical UCL thumb injuries take, I think it's safe to say that I will be back before the end of the year. In terms of how soon that will be, that kind of depends on the body, the throwing program and all that kind of stuff," said Bailey. "Talking with the doctor, I'm fairly confident in saying I will be back before the end of the year and help this team get to the playoffs and win a World Series.
-Via Alex Speier, WEEI
Yeah, that's not so...comforting. When people talk about coming back "before the end of the year," it seems to suggest that said boundary is at least close.
What seems to be the real figure, however, is the 3-4 months being tossed around. Rob Bradford talked with Dr. Evan Schumer today who offered up the same figure--one which would give us maybe 50-70 games with Bailey before all is said and done.
For what it's worth, Daniel Bard thinks the bullpen is up to the task without Bailey:
"I think [Alfredo] Aceves is good in any role you put him in and just crazy enough to succeed. I think [Mark] Melancon obviously can handle it. He's done it before. You've got other guys who can pick up saves as needed. You've got [Vicente] Padilla, who's done it before," said Bard. "There's no doubt in my mind that they're going to pick up the slack."
-Via Alex Speier, WEEI
Of course, if they don't "pick up the slack" then there's always the possibility of reinforcements from inside the system. Brian MacPherson singles out Alex Wilson and Junichi Tazawa as two of the arms most likely to make an impact this year.
Junichi Tazawa started his trip through Boston's system as a starter (and did quite well), and Alex Wilson is still taking the mound for five or six innings at a time, but neither would be the most surprising of conversions. Tazawa does seem to play better as a reliever, and Wilson's situation is a bit like Bard's in terms of repertoire, with a developing changeup the key for his hopes as a starter.
For my money, I'd like to see Wilson get his shot as a starter long-term, but if the likes of Bard, Doubront, and Cook can cover the back end of the rotation, then a short-term conversion could make a lot of sense. As for Tazawa, a lot will rest on whether or not his secondary stuff has its bite all the way back post-TJS.
Either way, it helps to have options.
Sticking with the minor leagues, Will Middlebrooks had quite the start to his season last night, and seems to be itching to prove himself at the top level in the minor leagues as he continues to push towards the majors.
"I came in here with a sense of urgency, and I really didn't want to wait to get things going," Middlebrooks. "I just wanted to really focus as hard as I could to get good pitches to hit.
"It's really good to get off to a good start, it just kind of sets the tone for the season," he added. "So I just want to get off on the right foot."
Middlebrooks' big night is in stark contrast to how he ended 2011 in Pawtucket. After a late-season promotion, Middlebrooks hit all of .161/.200/.268 in 56 Triple-A at bats. It wasn't pretty, and while his manager chalked it up to fatigue, the third baseman isn't too fond of using that excuse:
"At that point in the year I'm sure everyone is [tired], so it's not really an excuse," he said. "That's something you train for all offseason, and it's something I worked on, just keep my body healthy."
-Via Ryan Tepperman, NESN
Perhaps a better explanation is that Middlebrooks is not quick to adapt after midseason promotions. It was the first time, after all, that he'd made the jump outside of the offseason, and he'd hardly be the first player to struggle to make such a transition. It didn't really hurt his stock any, however, and if he gets that quick start, he'll be sniffing the majors before too long.
Finally, moving on to things of less substance, we arrive at the continuing saga of Curt Schilling vs. Bobby Valentine, with Schilling trying to step back from his earlier comments
:"I certainly understand he disagrees with me. ..." Schilling told Adam Jones on ESPN Boston Radio. "The problem here is this has been positioned as me against Bobby V and I feel bad.
"I disagreed with some things that he did. I stated my opinion in disagreeing. People act like I am openly rooting against him and nothing can be further from the truth. I like Bobby, I think he's a very smart baseball guy. I disagree with some of the stuff that he did, that's what I get paid to do. I gave my opinion and if he disagrees with it that's his prerogative, that's fine."
-Via ESPN Boston
Well, alright, maybe not stepping back from. Just, uh, acknowledging and not escalating? Can we please take advantage of this opportunity to let the whole circus sideshow drop?