|ESPN.com: Spring 2012||[Print without images]|
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey will leave the team and head to Boston to have an injury to his right thumb examined by doctors.
Bailey was acquired this offseason from the Oakland A's to replace Jonathan Papelbon, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as a free agent.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, speaking to reporters on Sunday, didn't seem overly concerned about the severity of the injury or the difficulty in finding a closer in case Bailey can't answer the bell, saying the team has "good options."
"I think things have been done accordingly to make sure that we're covered there," said Valentine, who earlier in the day indicated that he could envision Alfredo Aceves pitching in a closer role if needed. Aceves had been a contender for a spot in Boston's starting rotation.
"Of course, there's a plan. But with (Bailey), there has got to be a plan when he can't go. So now it's that plan plus somebody else. But I don't think it will be somebody else on a daily basis."
The other most obvious option to close would be Mark Melancon, who was a closer for the Houston Astros last season and was slotted to be the setup man.
Daniel Bard, who was Boston's setup man last season, will be in the rotation this season, a move Valentine confirmed earlier Sunday.
"I have faith," Valentine said. "This has all been happening quickly and we've had a lot of meetings today. And I haven't formulated everything in my mind, and I don't know that I have to. It seems that it's OK. It seems to be that with Aceves being a very key component three days ago, he's an even more key component now."
Valentine said he thinks Bailey injured the thumb March 21 in Bradenton in a 6-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates and pitched with the injury Wednesday in a minor league game. But no one appears to be sure, including Bailey, who was not available for comment.
"He had a collision at first base in Bradenton," Valentine said. "When he went down, the only thing I can think of is that after the collision, with the adrenaline (he) didn't even realize anything had happened. But I don't know. I asked everyone if they had seen anything."
Valentine said he first heard of the injury two days ago. He said it's unlikely that Bailey will open the season with the team, but he is not jumping to conclusions.
"I'm really going to let this thing breathe," he said. "As weird as it is to a lot of players on the team, the last thing I ever want to do is make it any less comfortable than it has to be. Everybody, I think, understands the situation.
"It changes the dynamic. We just have to let it breathe a little."
Bailey converted 24 of 26 save opportunities with a 3.24 ERA for the A's in 2011.
Rick Weber is a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.