Red Sox

Bailey looks to finish strong, make his mark next season

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Bailey looks to finish strong, make his mark next season

BOSTON Since coming off the disabled list to make his season debut Aug. 14, Andrew Bailey has made seven appearances, spanning 5 13 innings, posting a 1.69 ERA, with a hold, a blown save, and a save.

It wasnt a save situation on Monday, but he pitched a scoreless ninth, with one walk, as the Red Sox beat the Royals, 5-1, in the homestand finale.

Bailey is glad to be back on the mound and healthy.

I feel really good, he said. Obviously, a lot of time off but this is the best Ive felt in quite some time and its just nice to get back into a regular schedule and not having any limitations, just feeling good all around.

He has appeared in four of the five games, including three straight, since Thursday. Pitching four innings in that span, he allowed one earned run, with a hit, a walk, and a strikeout. He likes having the regular work.

A lot of times, especially as relievers, when you dont see the mound for three or four days its reallyy important to get your mound work in during BP or whenever and make sure you stay fresh, he said. But when youre pitching consistently and feeling good, thats always a positive sign and you just get up there and do your thing. And sometimes when youre way from the game or dont get in for a little bit it takes some getting used to even though its just a couple days. But not matter what, Im ready to go and I feel good.

And now, with his return to full health and the sudden uncertain status of Alfredo Aceves, whose three-game suspension imposed by the team was completed on Monday, the closers role is available. Manager Bobby Valentine said before Mondays game he has not determined who his closer will be for the rest of the season. But, its the role for which the Sox acquired Bailey in the offseason. For his part, though, Bailey is willing to serve whatever role he can.

At this point in time, were trying to win ballgames and its been a frustrating year all around from an injury standpoint and the way we were performing, he said. But coming in here and winning these games is important. Im not really in it for individual stats. I think as a bullpen a lot of times the games are won and lost in the sixth, seventh innings. Sometimes thats more important than whos closing and getting the last three outs. So, for me, its whatever role we can have success with as a staff down there and show that we can do the job. Thats whats important.

But he would like to be able to show that he can be the pitcher the Sox acquired in a trade with the As in December. The one who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2009 and a two-time All-Star, the one who had 75 saves over the last three seasons.

He knows his health has been a concern. And a fluke injury in spring training which necessitated the surgery on his right thumb that sidelined him for most of the season was a concern. Hes anxious to show what he can do.

Theres a reason they make trades and they wanted what they saw when I was healthy, he said. Theres no question in my mind I can do that and bring that to the table here in Boston. Its just a matter of going out there and doing it. So, for me, Im the same person out there no matter what my role is and Im going to give my all every single time. Hopefully, it continues in the right direction.

While hes not concerned with putting up individual stats over the remainder of the season, he does have certain goals he would like to accomplish.

Obviously, number one stay healthy and finish strong, he said. I think about the closers role, I think whatever happens happens, and next year hopefully Im at the top of that list. But for this year I think as a bullpen staff in general I think its important that we go out there and do our jobs."

And now, with the Sox blockbuster, nine-player trade completed, the hope is that the chaos that has surrounded the team for most of the season has quieted down, allowing the team to concentrate on baseball for the rest of the season.

Obviously weve had a lot of drama this year, so to speak, and I think now that the organization has made its mind up in which direction it wants to go, Bailey said. I think its just back to baseball and with so many questions flowing around the last couple weeks now its kind of a sense of Alright, its over with. Its done with. Lets focus on the game. We always come here with the goal in mind of winning a game but its just nice to get back to baseball.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press