With closer Joel Hanrahan now in the mix in Boston, Bailey will enter spring training in a setup role. Bailey, of course, figured to be the team’s closer before the trade, but Red Sox assistant general manager Brian O’Halloran noted shortly after the Hanrahan deal that their new acquisition would take over the ninth-inning duties.
Now, one would think this might not sit well with Bailey. Closers garner much of the recognition when it comes to relievers, and they’re certainly paid much more handsomely. But Bailey noted in a recent conversation with WEEI.com that he’s happy the Red Sox went out and acquired another proven hurler like Hanrahan.
“I’m excited to have him. I think it makes our bullpen that much stronger,” Bailey said. “I think ultimately, with how things went last year, with myself being injured, it’s a business. I understand that. I’m excited. I’m excited for the moves we’ve made, not only in the bullpen but all around. I think it’s definitely an addition to our pen and it makes us that much stronger. I think that with me and him going eight, nine, that’s kind of set out in the forefront, I like it and I think it makes us that much stronger. The focus is on winning. It makes our team better. Plus, with everyone else in the pen, it makes us one of the strongest assets on the team.”
Boston’s bullpen was middle of the pack in 2012. The unit performed well at times, but the lack of production by the starting rotation ultimately taxed the bullpen far too much. Last season was particularly difficult for Bailey, who didn’t pitch until August because of thumb surgery and struggled upon his return to the mound. The right-hander had a 7.04 ERA in 19 appearances, perhaps causing Ben Cherington and Co. to take another look at the team’s closer situation.
Baily is remaining optimistic despite being bumped out of the closer’s role, though, and he’s hoping that he can stay healthy and contribute throughout all of 2013, regardless of his exact job title. In addition to Hanrahan, the Red Sox have added a number of free agents this offseason, including outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, catcher David Ross, starter Ryan Dempster, reliever Koji Uehara and (perhaps) catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli. All in all, Bailey likes what he sees.
“We have the key components in place. It’s just kind of adding things here and there,” Bailey told WEEI.com. “Talking with Ben and talking with John [Farrell], when they called me and let me know that the trade was being talked about, everything was focused on winning. As a player, that’s what you want to hear — an organization that is geared towards winning. If that means I have to change roles, so to speak, I get to play baseball for a living and I throw in the eighth inning rather than the ninth inning.
“Sure, it’s first priority for all relievers to want to close,” he added. “But it’s not like I’m upset about it or anything. It’s just a tweak in the job description. It’s not the end of anything. It will be good. I’m looking forward to working with [Hanrahan]. I think it’s going to be a great duo down there, and obviously with everyone coming back, it’s going to be awesome. Like I said, there’s going to be a lot of arms to choose from and matchups. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Bailey spent three seasons as Oakland’s closer before being shipped to Boston in a trade last offseason. He was extremely reliable in that time, earning two All-Star selections in addition to Rookie of the Year honors in 2009. If he’s able to stay healthy and adapt to his new role in 2013, the Red Sox could end up with one of the American League’s most solid bullpens.
The Red Sox are hoping that a positive attitude also means positive results.