EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 9, 2013

With Hanrahan in the mix, don't forget about Bailey

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — When the Red Sox added Joel Hanrahan, who saved 76 games combined for Pittsburgh the past two seasons while making two NL All-Star teams, Boston co-assistant GM Brian O’Halloran pointed out, “It’s not too often that you get a chance to add a two-time All-Star closer to the mix.”

To set the record straight though, the Red Sox actually have acquired a two-time All-Star closer each of the past two offseasons.

With Hanrahan in the mix, don’t be quick to disregard Andrew Bailey.

Bailey, who the Red Sox acquired via a trade last offseason, was as good of a closer as you could get during his first two years (2009, 2010) in the majors. He made the American League All-Star team each of those years and won the ‘09 AL Rookie of the Year.

Some have speculated that with Hanrahan aboard, Boston might trade Bailey, who missed the first four and a half months of last season then posted a dreadful 7.04 ERA and blew three of nine save opportunities after returning in mid-August.

Why trade Bailey though?

After all, his trade value right now is at an all-time low, and he is projected to make only $3.9 million this year after salary arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com. He also is under the Red Sox control through 2014 while Hanrahan can leave as a free agent after this season.

Here is a way to look at it — the Boston Red Sox have two really talented closers in Hanrahan and Bailey, both of whom they should hold onto for the time being. Together, they provide an electric 1-2 punch late in games.

Hanrahan received a tour of Fenway Park yesterday, then met with the media. He will enter spring training as the closer.

Bailey will enter as a setup man. Manager John Farrell has informed both of their roles.

Hanrahan spoke with ex-Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy about Bailey, who came to Red Sox from the Athletics.

“He said (Bailey) is a great guy and he thinks we’ll get along great,” Hanrahan said.

“All you can do is root for each other to have success and pull for the team. That’s what we’re going to do, I believe. (Bailey) was in a tough spot. Any time you injure your hand in spring training, that’s not fun, especially coming over to a new team. So I’m sure he’s got a lot to prove this year.”

Having two legitimate closers gives the Red Sox options. Bailey provides a reliable alternative on days when Hanrahan needs rest. Secondly, if Hanrahan struggles a lot or even suffers an injury himself, Farrell could insert Bailey, who saved 75 games from 2009-11, into the closer role.

Bailey still has the potential to be an effective big league closer. The 28-year-old has a terrific, upbeat personality so he undoubtedly will enter spring training with a positive attitude after being demoted even if he truly is upset.

He knows he has to prove he can remain healthy and be an effective late-inning reliever who still has the stuff to close games.

Closers make significant more money than even the best setup man.

For that reason alone Bailey should be motivated to pitch well — to regain his former role.

Don’t get too down on Bailey. If he stays healthy — which admittedly has been a big question mark — there is no reason to believe he won’t thrive no matter what role he fills this year because he still has effective pitches.

Last year, when he did pitch, his fastball averaged 94.3 mph compared to an average of 94.0 throughout his career, according to fangraphs.com. Also featuring a change-up and cutter, Bailey struggled with some location issues in a few of his outings in September, which blew up his ERA, WHIP and stat lines.

Maybe the best part of both Hanrahan and Bailey is they have allowed few base runners when pitching at their best in recent years. Bailey had a 0.95 combined WHIP (walks and hits allowed per innings pitched) during three seasons with Oakland.

Hanrahan recorded a 1.05 WHIP in ‘11 and a 1.27 mark in ‘12 despite a shaky September/October (2.00).

The Boston pen looks fairly impressive with those two followed by newly-acquired Koji Uehara as well as Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales, Daniel Bard, Clayton Mortensen and Andrew Miller.

“There are a lot of arms down there that can get the job done at any time,” Hanrahan said.

“I was looking at something on the plane here where MLB Network had the top five bullpens. ... I was thinking they might throw us on there. But we’ll have to work our way onto it. We belong there.”