The 2013 Red Sox pride themselves on a next-man-up mentality. They need to embrace that approach now more than ever.
Andrew Bailey was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury Friday, and there’s a very good chance that the right-hander will miss the remainder of the season. The injury makes Ben Cherington’s job even more difficult as we approach the trade deadline, as the need for bullpen help is greater than ever, but don’t expect the Red Sox to make any knee-jerk reactions.
“We still got a little more information to gather [on Bailey]. He may get another opinion, but he’s going to be down for some time. The guys have to step up, and as far as how it affects us, we’re going to continue to give some younger pitchers a chance and see what they can do,” Cherington said before Friday’s game. “As I said when [Andrew] Miller went down, when a guy goes down, you have to replace him somehow, and I hope that that’s guys that are here internally. We’ve got to keep an open mind and continue to do that over the course of the next couple of days.”
If Bailey opts for surgery, which the pitcher admitted is definitely an option, he will require a 12-month recovery period, meaning he would likely be out until the second half of the 2014 season. It’s a huge blow, especially since it compounds an already glaring issue.
When Joel Hanrahan went down earlier this season, the Red Sox had the benefit of knowing that they could plug Bailey into the closer’s role. Bailey has since lost that role, but he showed drastic improvement of late, and there was still a chance that he would hold a prominent bullpen role — if not the closer’s role — by the end of the year. Now, the Red Sox, who were already believed to be seeking relief help, are forced to proceed with a unit sans Hanrahan, Bailey and Miller, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a foot injury.
The Red Sox brought in Matt Thornton to help solidify the ‘pen, and Cherington might not be done wheeling and dealing. He’s certainly not done looking, and it’s reasonable to think that his search will open up even more in the wake of Bailey’s injury.
“It does make it more challenging but it doesn’t change the job,” Cherington said. “We’ve got to figure out who’s pitching in what roles, and some new guys are going to get a chance. We’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys. At the same time, we’ll continue to work the phone, see if there are ways to help the team from outside the organization.”
Cherington will work the phones — as will every other GM in baseball — in the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll see any major changes in Boston. Acquiring bullpen help near the deadline can often get pricy, so the Red Sox’ most logical course might actually be to roll with their internal options in the hopes of catching lightning in a bottle, even if that approach requires a leap of faith. Simply put, the Red Sox don’t want to mortgage their future for a short-term fix despite how gaping the hole left by Bailey’s injury appears at first glance.
“In the front office, we have an obligation to try to help if we can. We’ll try to do that in a way that makes us better but doesn’t alter our long-term course,” Cherington said. “We set out, before this year, to accomplish something this year on the way to something long-term and that’s what we’re still going to try to do. But we’re in [contention] so we have to react to that and what’s going on today. It’s a balance, but the fact we’re in it means we have an obligation to try to help.”
The Red Sox’ young internal bullpen options include the likes of Brandon Workman, Rubby De La Rosa and Drake Britton. All have minimal big league experience — or none, in the case of Britton — and figure to hold a starting role in the long run. They all also have plenty of talent, though, so the Red Sox might ultimately decide that that’s enough to gamble on.
The Red Sox have some veteran options as well, after signing, Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon to minor league contracts Friday. Perhaps one or both of them could factor into the major league equation at some point. The same can be said for Alfredo Aceves, who is still in the system despite being taken off the 40-man roster, and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who pitched well for Pawtucket before undergoing an appendectomy in June.
Nothing about the Red Sox’ current bullpen situation is ideal. But there’s also nothing ideal about going out and giving up the farm for a reliever who may or may not work out, and Cherington sounds like he’s taking that into consideration while scouring the trade market.
The Red Sox’ in-house options have stepped up all year. They might have no choice but to keep that trend going in the second half.