Andrew Bailey was replaced as the Red Sox closer last month after a series of poor outings. But his most recent appearances were so strong that manager John Farrell spoke optimistically about the idea of eventually moving the righthander back into the ninth inning.
Now Bailey is almost certainly done for the season, the team revealing Friday that he suffered a significant shoulder injury in Oakland last week.
“Doing my job recently has been satisfying,” Bailey said. “Now to have this . . . It’s incredibly frustrating.”
Bailey was injured last Friday on a pitch when he struck out Jed Lowrie. He stayed in the game and struck out Yoenis Cespedes on five pitches.
“It didn’t feel good,” Bailey said. “The damage was done on that one pitch. The game’s a funny game. You throw one pitch and now you’ve got a decision to make.”
Bailey has a labrum tear, a tear in his capsule, and a strained subscapularis tendon. One of the Red Sox’ physicians, Peter Asnis, made the diagnosis Monday. Mets team doctor David Altchek confirmed it Wednesday, as did Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad Thursday.
Bailey said he is “gathering information” about his options. The decision comes down to whether to have surgery or try a course of rest and rehabilitation.
“The only way to fix this is surgery, 100 percent fix it. This isn’t going to heal on its own,” Bailey said. “We’re just trying to gather information about how close I can get it to be stable without injuring it further.”
If Bailey decides on rehab, which seems unlikely, there is only a small chance he could return this season.
Bailey is the third late-inning reliever the Red Sox have lost for the season because of injury. Joel Hanrahan had Tommy John elbow surgery in May and will miss 9-12 months. Lefthander Andrew Miller, a valuable setup man, tore a ligament in his left foot July 6 and had surgery Monday. He will not return until spring training.
“This is a tough time for us,” Farrell said. “But we have to overcome it.”
If — or more likely when — Bailey has surgery, he would miss at least one full year.
“It’s tough, tough for him more than anything,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “Obviously we were counting on him to be a big part of our bullpen.”
The Red Sox called up righthander Jose De La Torre from Triple A Pawtucket to replace Bailey on the roster. But Cherington is sure to seek external solutions for late-inning relief.
The Red Sox acquired lefthander Matt Thornton from the White Sox July 12 to replace Miller. Now, with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching on July 31, Cherington is seeking more help.
“As I said when Miller went down, when a guy goes down you have to replace him somehow,” the GM said.
The Sox will evaluate some of their prospects to see whether they can offer immediate help. De La Torre and Drake Britton are on the roster now. Brandon Workman, who is in line to start on Tuesday, was initially called up to work in relief and could return to that role.
“We have a number of guys we believe in and this creates opportunity and maybe their time comes a little sooner than we thought,” Cherington said.
But Cherington acknowledged that the team being in first place changes the dynamic of roster building.
“The players and the staff have done a terrific job of putting us in this position, giving us a chance. In the front office we have an obligation to try and help if we can. We’ll try and do that in a way that makes us better but doesn’t alter our long-term course,” Cherington said.
“We set out before this year to accomplish something on the way to something long term, and that’s what we’re still going to try to do. But we’re in it and so we have to react to that and what’s going on today. We’ll do that; we’ll work as hard as we possibly can to find solutions for this team.”
The Sox could obtain a closer and drop Koji Uehara back into a setup role. There have been no indications of interest in bringing Jonathan Papelbon back from Philadelphia. But Francisco Rodriguez (Brewers), Steve Cishek (Marlins), and Kevin Gregg (Cubs) are possibilities.
Among the setup men likely to be available, Jesse Crain of the White Sox is a candidate if he is deemed healthy. The Sox also have scouted White Sox righthander Matt Lindstrom.
Lefthanders Oliver Perez (Mariners), Mike Dunn (Marlins), and Mike Gonzalez (Brewers) are candidates.
The uncertain status of Clay Buchholz, who hasn’t pitched since June 8, has the Sox also looking at starters.
The Sox signed veteran righthanded relievers Jose Contreras and Brandon Lyon to minor league contracts Friday and assigned them to Pawtucket.
Contreras, 41, was released by the Pirates Thursday. He was pitching well for Triple A Indianapolis at the time of his release, having allowed one earned run over his last 16⅔ innings.
In 2003, when Contreras defected from Cuba and was a well-regarded starter, the Yankees outbid the Red Sox for his services during a tense showdown in Nicaragua. As legend has it, then-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein threw a chair in anger in his hotel room.
Cherington said he has a “gentlemen’s agreement” to release Contreras if the Red Sox find no opportunities for him in the majors.
Lyon, 33, was with the Red Sox in 2003 and had nine saves. He was part of the Curt Schilling trade that winter and has been a journeyman since. The Mets released him this month. Lyon had a 4.98 ERA in 37 appearances for New York.
For Bailey, the injury is the latest in what has been a series of setbacks. The 29-year-old pitched a full season for Oakland in 2009. In the four seasons since, he has been on the disabled list six times with injuries to his elbow, rib cage, forearm, thumb, and right biceps.
Over two seasons with the Red Sox, Bailey has pitched in 49 games. He had a 3.77 ERA in 30 appearances this season.
Doctors told Bailey he injured his shoulder releasing the pitch to Lowrie. But he believes the issues had been building all season.
Bailey is arbitration-eligible for one final season and remains under team control for 2014. But the Red Sox are likely to non-tender Bailey rather than offer him arbitration and pay him a salary close to the $4.1 million he is making this season.