BOSTON (CBS) – With Andrew Bailey returning to Boston to have his right thumb looked at, the Boston Red Sox might already face a problem at the back of their bullpen.
However, if the Red Sox closer lands on the disabled list to begin the season, Bobby Valentine does have a few options to toss out there for the ninth inning.
Before acquiring Bailey from the Oakland Athletics, the Red Sox sent infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland to the Astros for reliever Mark Melancon. In Houston last season, Melancon was 20 for 24 in save opportunities after taking over closer duties mid-season. In his 53 appearances, the right owner a 3.07 ERA to go with a 1.21 WHIP, as he finished the season 8-4.
Stats: Red Sox Injuries
“Being in that role is kind of what I’ve been striving for my whole career,” Melancon said earlier this spring. “Being here now, obviously that might change, but still, anywhere in the back end of the bullpen, you have to treat it like it’s a save situation. I’ll use that experience [from] last year to do that here.”
The main question revolving around Melancon and the ninth inning is: those numbers were in the NL Central, how will they translate into the powerhouse AL East?
Another option for Valentine is Alfredo Aceves, who found out on Sunday he would remain in the bullpen and not start the season in the starting rotation. Aceves was Boston’s best pitcher in 2011, solidifying a bullpen that spent much of the season in shambles. While he doesn’t have much success as a closer, converting just four saves over his four-year career, Aceves succeeded in any role Boston needed him to in ’11. While he would prefer to be a starter, there is little doubt Aceves could handle the spotlight that goes with being the guy on the hill to close out games.
But with Aceves pitching just the ninth, the Red Sox would lose an innings-eater in the pen. Where he was most valuable last season was when he went three or more innings, often bailing out a starter that couldn’t get out of the fifth inning (or earlier). While he could be called upon for multiple-inning saves, Aceves is more valuable in the sixth and seventh innings if the Red Sox need a stop-gap to get to their closer.
It would make the most sense to have Melancon and his closing experience next in line to take over for an injured Bailey, something that may happen more than once this season. Bailey has been injury prone in each of his three MLB seasons, so having a good backup plan will be a must for Ben Cherington, Valentine and company.
And they might get an early chance to see how that backup plan works.
Who do you think should get the ball in the 9th inning for Boston if Andrew Bailey begins the season on the DL?