Bruins

With Bailey needing surgery, Red Sox bullpen unstable

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With Bailey needing surgery, Red Sox bullpen unstable

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The news on Andrew Bailey was as bad as the Red Sox had feared.

Bailey, obtained in an off-season deal with the Oakland A's to serve as the replacement for departed free agent Jonathan Papelbon, will require surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb.

Bailey spent Tuesday in Cleveland being examined by noted hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, who has performed thumb surgeries on both Kevin Youkilis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in recent years.

The surgery will take place Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic. A baseball source familiar with the situation estimated that Bailey's recovery time would take anywhere from three to four months.

"I don't think it will be before the All-Star break, is what the trainer told me," said manager Bobby Valentine.

Bailey's loss, just two days before the 2012 season opener, throws the Red Sox bullpen into chaos, with roles changing.

"The guys that you've seen in the bullpen are going to hold down the fort," said Bobby Valentine after the Sox held off the Washington Nationals, 8-7, "and do the job to help us win a lot of games. I think you saw (Alfredo) Aceves there (in the eighth inning) -- think you'll see him at the end of games. (Mark) Melancon will be at the end of games,
for sure.

Valentine also hinted that he had spoken to the relievers in question about his plan, but wouldn't reveal anything further.

"I did everything I had to do, I think, yeah," he said. "They're all settled, I'm settled. In Detroit, we'll find out what it was, hopefully on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday."

"I haven't heard anything yet," insisted Melancon, who was 20-for-25 in save opportunities for Houston last season. "It's unfortunate that Bailey's out. It's very unfortunate, but we've got a good bullpen and we'll be alright.

"I think we have some guys who can do that. But like in anything, experience helps. But no matter what happens, we'll be alright."

Even before they got the official word that surgery would be necessary, GM Ben Cherington labeled Bailey's situation "an acute injury."

"I'm confident that we have pitchers who can get the final out of the game," said Valentine. "It's just the rest of the grouping that's a work in progress. I'd like to think of it that we'll have a plan where there will be a person that will be designated for that role with others who can do it when he's not available -- if it all falls in line perfectly."

Before the game, Valentine maintained that the Sox weren't entirely able to pinpoint the timing of the injury. The best guess the Red Sox have is that Bailey suffered the injury after a collision near first base on March 21 in Bradenton, FL., when the Sox played the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"That's the best we can figure," said Cherington. "The onset of the pain happened shortly after that and he's never had any soreness before that. And there was clearly a collision where he fell on the ground and hit it. So that's our best guess as to when it happened."

If Bailey is going to miss half the season or more, the Red Sox must find a trustworthy replacement to close out games.

"I think we've got a number of guys who have done it a little bit," said Cherington, "who we think are capable of doing it. Ultimately, that's up to Bobby (to determine) who he brings in for the ninth inning. But there's a number of guys out there who have had some saves, have pitched late in games.

"This is an opportunity for some guys to step up and maybe pitch in a different role than they would have before. I think when you lose one guy out of the bullpen, no matter who it is or what the role is, there's a little bit of a ripple effect on other guys."

When asked specifically about the possibility of moving Daniel Bard back to the bullpen -- either to close or set-up -- Cherington was emphatic.

"The decision was made (for him to start)," he said. "He's going to pitch the (fifth game) in Toronto. We're committed to him as a starter right now."

Echoed Valentine: "I think he's finally feeling good about being there (in the rotation) and I see no reason, at this time, to change strokes in mid-stream."

"It's tough," acknowledged Saltalamacchia, "because he's a big key to this team's success, going from this year and in the future as well. It's frustrating, but at the same time, if he's going to do it, this is the time to do it and get it done so we can have him for the last half of the season, rather than him playing through it and then being out for
the season.

"But at the same time, just talking to him, I know he doesn't want to (miss time); he wants to play. If there's a way of playing without having the surgery, I think he's going to try and find a way to do it. But he's got to do what's right for him and get ready to play the rest of the season. Because we're going to need him from that second half of
the season on."

"We lost our guy," concluded Melancon, "but we're going to figure it out. It's going to be good."

'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

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'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.

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That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.  

Morning Skate: Shawn Thornton brightening hospitalized kids' days

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Morning Skate: Shawn Thornton brightening hospitalized kids' days

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while back in the good, ol' Eastern Time Zone.
 
*Really nice piece from Shawn Thornton in the Players' Tribune about the inspiration provided by his “Nanny” and how he’s come to truly love the community service and hospital visits while involved with professional hockey. He’s always been one of those athletes that just stops by children’s hospitals for a visit without needing the attention for it, and that is a credit to his great generosity and empathy for those brave kids.

 *You want a Stanley Cup made out of bottle caps? Well, the world will certainly provide a Stanley Cup made out of bottle caps.

*Defenseman Connor Murphy hasn’t been the player that the Chicago Blackhawks expected him to be since arriving in the Windy City.
 
*The Colorado Avalanche are adding a fancy stats and video man to their management group as they seek to keep improving the NHL product.
 
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eddie Olczyk is returning to the NBC broadcast booth as his health will allow as he continues to battle cancer. Good to see you back, Edzo!

 *Erik Karlsson is finally set to debut for the Ottawa Senators after offseason foot surgery, and it will be a case of the strong getting stronger for a Sens team off to a pretty decent start.

 *For something completely different: Just in time for Halloween, Jennifer Tilly releases all of the behind-the-scenes secrets of working with Chucky.