It has been reported (via ESPN) that Andrew Bailey is scheduled to have surgery on his injured thumb. How Bailey injured his thumb is anyone's guess according to the Red Sox; but regardless of how it happened Bailey will now be out for at least a couple of months and probably longer. This is devastating news for the Boston Red Sox's bullpen now that they are less than two days away from Opening Day.
Now let's face it, the Red Sox took a chance by trading for Bailey to be their full-time closer during the offseason. Over his career, Andrew Bailey has proven to be anything but durable. He has failed to pitch in at least 50 innings in each of the last two seasons, and there is a good chance he may not top that number again this year either.
Now when Bailey is healthy he is more than capable of being the Sox closer. He has a career 2.07 ERA with a 0.95 WHIP and averages a strikeout per inning. But who knows when he will be healthy again. Until Bailey can return Boston needs to look in-house to find a replacement closing pitcher.
That leaves Boston with about two options as their closer. Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon. Many would argue that Daniel Bard should get the opportunity to close out games, but the Red Sox are too committed to converting him into a starting pitcher. Bobby Valentine had already announced that Bard will be the fifth starter in the rotation, prior to Bailey's injury coming to the surface. So that means one of the Red Sox setup men have to step up into the closer role.
Alfredo Aceves seems the most logical to close out games in Andrew Bailey's absence. Aceves was arguably the most dependable arm out of Boston's bullpen last year. He earned a 10-2 record with a 2.61 ERA (he also started four games). He's got a fastball that can hit 93 mph and definitely has the mental toughness to thrive under the pressure.
While Mark Melancon may have more experience as a closing pitcher (saved 20 games last year for Houston) he hasn't pitched nearly enough at the big league level to step in as the closer for the Red Sox. 2011 was the first time Melancon pitched more than 17 innings in a season. Melancon is not used to pitching in the AL East and he is sure to experience some culture shock coming over from the NL Central on a last-place team.
Now despite who the Red Sox announce as their new closing pitcher, there is a good chance they may use a committee approach. It would be smart for Boston to use both Aceves and Melancon in the ninth inning until they can get Andrew Bailey back on the mound. Until then the Red Sox bullpen is beginning to look alarmingly thin to start the 2012 season.
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