With the Boston Globe reporting Tuesday that Boston Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey will likely need surgery on a right thumb injury, the Sox pitching lineup has been thrown into a state of flux once again.
Just two days after manager Bobby Valentine announced that Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard would be the team's fourth and fifth starters, that has to be in doubt now. If Bailey needs surgery, he will be out for multiple weeks, perhaps months, rather than the 15 days we thought earlier in the week.
So, who should replace him at the back end of the bullpen? Here we look at the most likely options.
Alfredo Aceves was invaluable to the Red Sox last year, as his versatility allowed then-manager Terry Francona to use him in different roles throughout the season.
This spring, he made a good push to be a starter but lost out and will start the season in the bullpen.
Long and middle relief is where he would naturally fit in, but there's no reason to doubt he can perform capably as the closer.
The Red Sox are confident that he can be good in a setup role but have no idea how he will cope with being a closer in the pressure cooker that is Boston, though he impressed in that position with Houston.
Depending on the length of Bailey's DL stint, Melancon could be a viable option. He has good swing-and-miss stuff, and if he has the temperament to cope with the occasional blown save, Melancon will be trustworthy enough.
If Andrew Bailey were out for the first 10 games, there would be no issue with putting Mark Melancon or Franklin Morales in the closer role.
Any longer, and that would be cause for concern. If it were a few weeks, maybe the Red Sox would be okay with Alfredo Aceves.
However, if Bailey needs surgery, the Red Sox will need more stability.
A thumb injury on a pitcher's throwing hand is tough, because he can't keep active as he recovers. Bailey will need extra time once he's healthy to prepare for the season again. That could take months.
Daniel Bard needs to be the team's closer.
He wants to be a starter and will have been happy that's what he was going to be on Opening Day. Things have changed, though, and the Sox need to move him to the closer role.
He is the best option for any period of time longer than a fortnight. While it's unfortunate for Bard, it's what is best for the team.
If they indeed move Daniel Bard to the closer role, the Red Sox will need to replace him as a starter. They have a few in-house options, the best of which is Aaron Cook.
Cook had a great spring, and the May opt-out in his contract means Boston will have to find a role for him soon. He could fill out the rotation nicely.
Of course, the Sox could go after free-agent Roy Oswalt. It's remarkable that no team picked him up in the offseason, and he can probably be got for $9-10 million for the season.
That's nothing for a team like Boston, and with FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reporting concerns about Josh Beckett, it's a possibility.
If Boston can patch things together until July, Daisuke Matsuzaka could be back. After three terrible seasons, it would be somewhat ironic if he proved to be a key starter for this team.
Adam MacDonald has been a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox since October 2010. He also writes about cricket a fair bit. He likes video games and sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter, or tell him how awesome/terrible this article was, by clicking here.