WASHINGTON - Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey will have reconstructive surgery on his right thumb Wednesday in Cleveland and will be out 3-4 months, the team announced Tuesday.
Bailey was examined by team doctors Monday in Boston, then by Dr. Thomas Graham Tuesday in Cleveland. Graham, who also operated on third baseman Kevin Youkilis’s right thumb and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s left thumb in 2010, is expected to perform the surgery.
When asked about Bailey’s return, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said, “Oh, I don’t think it’ll be before the All-Star break is what the trainer told me.’’ Managing a weary smile, Valentine added, “I don’t know what All-Star break he was referring to. I didn’t get specific with him.’’
Valentine said he was not likely to name a closer before Opening Day Thursday in Detroit.
General manager Ben Cherington said Bailey, who was acquired Dec. 28 from the Oakland Athletics to replace Jonathan Papelbon as the team’s closer, likely injured his thumb during a 6-5 loss to the Pirates in an exhibition game March 21 at Bradenton, Fla.
“He was covering first and collided with Alex Pressley and fell,’’ Cherington said. “At the time, he didn’t think anything of it, but he started to experience some soreness shortly after that and then went back and looked back at the video and he definitely landed on the thumb.
“He never had any thumb soreness before that. You never know for sure, but that’s a possibility that’s what did it. Any time you have more of an acute injury, you have to get to the bottom of how bad it is and whether it can be managed conservatively or not.’’
It was another setback for Bailey, who will start the season on the disabled list for the second consecutive year. He strained his forearm last spring and did not return until May 29.
In 2010, he had minor elbow surgery in September and had knee surgery after the season in 2009.
When he got to Fort Myers, Fla., with the Red Sox, Bailey suffered a muscle strain behind his shoulder on the second day of camp during physical testing. It kept him out until March 12. He spent nine days in camp before suffering his thumb injury.
“It’s a tough break,’’ said Clay Buchholz. “He sat right next to me in spring this year and the whole spring he kept saying, ‘I feel really good, really good,’ and then something like that happens. I think everybody in here feels for him.
“He’s going to play a big role on our team as soon as he’s back, but it’s tough. There’s going to have to be a couple of guys on this team step up and fill some shoes. It’s going to be big shoes to fill, but I think we have enough guys and we’re deep enough out there that we can do it for sure.’’
With Bailey out of the mix, righthander Alfredo Aceves, who picked up the victory in Tuesday’s 8-7 win over the Nationals, and righthander Mark Melancon are the leading candidates for the job.
“It’s unfortunate Bailey’s out,’’ Melancon said. “I just heard that news, so it’s very unfortunate.’’
Asked what kind of ripple effect it would have on the bullpen, Melancon said, “I think these guys have been through that before. A lot of guys have played a lot of different roles. I don’t know if that’s going to be too much of an issue, but we lost our guy and we’re going to have to figure it out.’’
Valentine did rule out one possible option as the closer: Daniel Bard. The manager said he was committed to Bard as his No. 5 starter.
“I think he’s finally feeling good about being there,’’ Valentine said. “I see no reason to change strokes in midstream.
“The guys you’ve seen in the bullpen are going to hold down the fort, do their job, and help us win a lot of games. I think Aceves there at the end, you’ll see him at the end of games. Melancon will be at the end of games, for sure.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.