Andrew Bailey grew up in New Jersey, went to college in New York City, and now lives in Connecticut. But a player who grew up following the heated rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees was hidden away in Oakland, pitching before acres of empty seats.
Now he gets his chance to join the fun. The Red Sox obtained Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney yesterday, sending the Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick and two Single A prospects.
Meet your new closer. Bailey is a 27-year-old who in three seasons has twice been an All-Star and has converted 86 percent of his save chances.
During a conference call last night, Bailey said several times how excited he was to be joining the Red Sox.
“I think every kid playing tee-ball out there strives to pitch in the postseason and meaningful games in September and ultimately the World Series,’’ he said. “I’m going to welcome that with open arms. There is nothing like the atmosphere of running in from the bullpen at Fenway Park.’’
In Bailey and righthander Mark Melancon, who was obtained from Houston two weeks ago, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has obtained two young, cost-effective late-inning relievers without giving up any top prospects.
“Andrew’s a proven, top-quality closer in the American League,’’ said Cherington. “He’s done it for three years and had a lot of success. He’s converted a very high percentage of his opportunities. We really like his makeup for Boston.
“He can fit very well into our team and into our clubhouse.’’
Bailey has 75 career saves, a 2.07 earned run average, and a 0.95 WHIP. He has 174 strikeouts in 174 career innings.
Bailey had a rough 2011. He strained his forearm in spring training and did not come off the disabled list until May 29. He had a 1.85 ERA through Aug. 9 before allowing 11 earned runs in the 13 games that followed.
There are health issues. Bailey had Tommy John elbow surgery in 2005 while at Wagner College. He also had an elbow procedure in September 2010 and offseason knee surgery in 2009.
“We had a chance to look into Bailey’s medical history and get to know a lot more about what he’s gone through,’’ Cherington said. “We’re very confident that he will come into camp ready to go.’’
“I’m feeling good,’’ said Bailey. “This is the first healthy offseason I’ve had since I’ve been in the big leagues.
“I’ve been able to get after it from day one. Knock on wood, I’m healthy and strong.’’
Oakland executives also had concerns about Bailey’s weight, as he was over 250 pounds at times last season.
But the Red Sox needed a closer, and Bailey came at a far cheaper price than any of the free agents on the market. He is arbitration-eligible for the first time and stands to make approximately $3.5 million.
The deal had its roots in July when the Red Sox nearly obtained righthander Rich Harden from Oakland. Bailey’s name came up then.
“It appeared Oakland would make him available this offseason based on the things they were doing,’’ Cherington said. “We had a pretty consistent conversation with Oakland for several weeks now.’’
One of the people who endorsed Bailey was new manager Bobby Valentine. The two have appeared at charity events together in Connecticut.
“Bobby and I are good friends,’’ Bailey said. “Bobby and I have a good relationship. He’s excited to have me on board and I’m excited to be there for him. We’re both looking forward to it. It helps knowing someone going in.’’
Bailey knows the stakes will be higher in Boston than Oakland. But he is confident in his ability.
“I’m not going to blow it by you at 98, 99 - I’m not that type of guy,’’ he said. “I usually sit in the low 90s and rely on control and getting ahead of guys.
“There’s a motto I live by - it’s ‘strike one is the best pitch in baseball.’ If you stick with that, you’ll be fine.
“Obviously, pitching - and closing, for that matter - is bigger in Boston. But I’ll be fine with that.’’
Reddick hit .280 with 7 home runs and 28 RBIs in 87 games last season. But he fell out of favor late in the year, the organization weary of his lack of discipline at the plate. The Sox also included first baseman Miles Head and righthander Raul Alcantara in the deal.
Head hit 22 home runs last season. Alcantara, 19, has a 2.72 ERA over two seasons.
Sweeney, who turns 27 in February, is a fourth outfielder type. He hit .265 with 1 homer and 25 RBIs in 299 plate appearances last season.
The Red Sox see the lefthanded-hitting Sweeney as an option in right field, believing his opposite-field approach at the plate and strong defensive skills will play well at Fenway Park.
“He’s a guy we tried to acquire in the past, and think he fits well with our team,’’ said Cherington. “So he’ll be a big part of our outfield mix.’’
The Red Sox also will have Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Aviles in camp as outfield options.
The acquisition of Bailey furthers cements the team’s plan to shift Daniel Bard from the bullpen to the rotation.
“Bard is going to prepare for spring training as a starter, and we want to give him every chance to do that,’’ said Cherington. “We just need to see how things go in spring training. We believe he can do it.’’
The likelihood of Bard starting probably means the Sox will keep Alfredo Aceves in the bullpen. Using two converted relievers in the rotation would a difficult proposition. Cherington said the team remains interested in obtaining another starter.
“We haven’t found one yet where we feel like the acquisition cost is the right one,’’ he said. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t come. It just hasn’t come yet.
“I do think our situation has been one where we can afford to be a little bit patient in the starting pitching market because of what we have at the front of the rotation.’’Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.