Sox shore up pitching staff with Bailey

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
1:24
AM ET
By his own admission, Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is methodical by nature, especially when it comes to making decisions in the best interest of the organization.

Ever since he was named GM in late October, he promised to right the wrongs of 2011 and improve the club moving forward. It was slow going at the start for a few reasons. First, and most importantly, he needed to find a manager. Once he named Bobby Valentine to that position, the roster and the coaching staff then began to take shape.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Bailey
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAndrew Bailey seems likely to have the inside track on Boston's closer job, but with Mark Melancon also in the mix, the Sox should boast good bullpen depth even if Daniel Bard joins the rotation.
The biggest cause for concern was the club's pitching staff. There were questions in regards to the depth of the starting rotation, and the team also needed a closer after Jonathan Papelbon exited Boston and landed in Philadelphia with the Phillies via free agency.

Cherington recently landed reliever/closer Mark Melancon in a trade with the Houston Astros, and at that time the GM said more additions would be made to the bullpen.

Enter Andrew Bailey.

The Red Sox acquired the right-handed closer, along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney, from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Josh Reddick, minor league right-hander Raul Alcantara and first baseman Miles Head.

"Andrew's a proven top-quality closer in the American League," Cherington said. "He's done it for three years and has had a lot of success. He's converted a very high percentage of his opportunities. He's got the stuff and we really like his makeup for Boston."

Bailey, 27, has a combined 75 saves in the past three seasons, posting 26, 25 and 24, respectively. Melancon, 26, became a closer in 2011 and posted 20 saves with an 8-4 record. Bailey is clearly the odds-on favorite to close for the Red Sox in 2012, which would make Melancon the setup man.

"We believe both are fully capable of [closing]," Cherington said. "Bailey's been doing it for a little longer, so perhaps Andrew has a leg up, but we'll leave those decisions to Bobby and [pitching coach] Bob McClure for spring training."

The addition of both Bailey and Melancon means the Red Sox have their closer. It also means reliever Daniel Bard will be converted into a starter at the start of spring training.

"Bard's going to prepare for spring training as a starter and we want to give him every chance to do that," Cherington said. "Ultimately, Bobby and Bob McClure will make that decision. We talked to Daniel about preparing for spring training as a starter with the intent of helping him succeed in that role. We believe he can do it and we'll see how things go in spring training."

It also means Alfredo Aceves will remain in long relief, a role he dominated last season for the Red Sox.

With the bullpen filling out nicely, Cherington is still doing his due diligence on available starters, including Edwin Jackson and Joe Saunders. Boston also has some internal candidates, too, with left-handers Andrew Miller and Felix Doubront.

"We'll continue to work and we're actively considering and looking at starting pitching options, also," said Cherington. "But we haven't found one yet where we feel like the acquisition cost is the right one. That doesn't mean it won't come to us, it just hasn't come yet."

Cherington believes he's in a position to be patient in regards to the starting pitching market because of what the team already has at the front of the rotation with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz. If Bard can have success as a starter, and a healthy and productive Daisuke Matsuzaka enters the mix, the rotation starts looking pretty good.

"If we can find ways to build depth into the rotation, we will," Cherington said. "We don't feel like we're forced into doing that."

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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