ESPN is reporting that Boston Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey has a thumb injury that may require surgery after a second opinion. The exact injury hasn’t been revealed, but we do know that it occured on Bailey’s right (throwing) hand.
Bailey will likely be out a substantial period of time after the surgery, and Boston would need to replace him at closer. Bailey was brought in this offseason from the A’s to replace Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four year contract with the Phillies this winter.
To replace Bailey as closer, Boston has a few options. Mark Melancon, acquired from the Astros this winter for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Wieland, served as Houston’s closer last year, saving 20 games with a 2.78 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. The 27 year-old isn’t a sexy option, but he might be the best one that the Red Sox have.
Another choice the Red Sox have involves Daniel Bard, who was switched from the bullpen to the rotation this spring. If Boston wants to put him back in the bullpen, where many believe he fits best, it would create a hole in the rotation, but it would also fill the closer’s role with a guy who has been a dominant reliever for the Sox over the last two years. In 147 2/3 innings over the last two seasons in relief, Bard has 150 strikeouts and a 2.62 ERA while compiling 3.1 fWAR. He’s a much sexier option than Melancon, who throws much less hard than Bard (97 mph fastball for Bard compared to 92 for Melancon), and he is also familiar with a relief role with the Red Sox.
The other option being thrown around for Boston involves long man Alfredo Aceves, who lost out on a rotation spot to Bard and prospect Felix Doubront. Aceves was mentioned as a possible closer, which I don’t think would end very well due to his 92 mph fastball and his low strikeout rate of 6.32 last year. A much more palatable option for the Red Sox would be to move Bard back to the bullpen (and consequently, the closer’s role), and to let Aceves take Bard’s spot in the rotation. The biggest downside of doing that is that Boston would essentially be punting on their entire spring of work trying to get Bard accustomed to starting every fifth day, and that when Bailey would come back, the Sox would need to determine whether or not to keep Bard in the bullpen or to move him back to the rotation…and to possibly have to start the entire conversion process all over again.
Whatever the Red Sox wind up doing with their closer’s role, Bailey’s injury is a very tough break for the team. They brought him in to replace a franchise pillar in Papelbon, and it’s looking like he’s not even going to be on the Opening Day roster. Sometimes, even the best laid plans can fall apart.