With reports emerging Monday that the Boston Red Sox will activate Andrew Bailey before Tuesday night’s game in Baltimore, Sox fans will finally get to see the man who was supposed to be the closer all season long.
Despite the fact that he has not pitched all year long and replacement Alfredo Aceves has filled in capably, Bailey should be given the closer’s job as soon as he returns.
While this decision may seem counterintuitive and discount the notion of “rust,” for the Red Sox it also represents a huge opportunity for them to drastically improve their struggling team. While a miracle run to the playoffs is not out of the question, at 57-59 the Sox have dug themselves a hole they will be hard-pressed to climb out of.
The time has come for them to start shifting their thinking toward next season, and specifically who they want playing different roles. Bailey is certainly in their plans, but the team will want to see just what they can expect going forward.
Thrusting him right into the mix against AL East competition is a great way to find out if the young right-hander can handle the role he was acquired to fill.
If for whatever reason Bailey looks ill-suited to be the team’s closer, the Sox will have the entire offseason to pursue other options via trade or free agency. Given his track record, though, it seems unlikely Bailey will fail.
His first three MLB seasons, though injury-plagued, were hugely successful. He boasts a 2.07 ERA and .907 WHIP for his career, was AL Rookie of the Year in 2009 and was an All-Star in two of those first three years.
This is a player who knows how to get it done at the end of games, something Aceves has struggled with at times this season.
Bailey’s career save percentage (.893) is substantially higher than the career (.730) and season (.793) marks of Aceves. Aceves has blown six saves this season, tied for third-most in MLB. His 4.14 ERA and 1.176 WHIP, while appearing decent enough on paper, are actually quite high for a closer.
He has by no means been bad, and indeed Aceves’ durability and reliability has made him one of the most valuable members of the Sox pitching staff all season. However, he has been handed a job for which he is not suited, and the result has been a slightly uneven performance.
An area where Aceves has succeeded in the past and could be of sizable help this season is as a starter. He proved last year that he can adjust to throwing significantly more pitches midseason without difficulty, and with the Sox rotation struggling he would inject the rotation with new life without having to trade anybody.
Ultimately, though, this move must be made because of Bailey’s readiness. The right-hander just finished a strong rehab stint at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he struck out 10 batters in 6.1 innings and posted a 1.42 ERA.
He is ready for top level competition.
While many will argue that he needs time to readjust, his rehab stint was partially meant to fill this role as a tune-up. If he needed more time to prepare, he could have taken it.
The talent of the hitters is obviously greater in MLB; however, the Sox would not be activating Bailey if they did not think he was up for the challenge.
It’s time for them to put Bailey into the role he was meant to fulfill and see what the young closer can do.
Lead image courtesy of boston.com.