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New Sox closer Andrew Bailey insists he’s ‘healthy and strong’

12.29.11 at 7:01 am ET
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New Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey spoke to the media Wednesday after the announcement of his trade from the A’s.

Bailey has had some injury issues, but he said he’s in good shape as he prepares to step into Jonathan Papelbon‘s closer role.

‘€œObviously, stay healthy is number one. That’€™s the key to success,” he said. “Then, don’€™t shy away from who you are. I’€™m not going to blow by you at 98-99. I’€™m not that kind of guy. I sit in the low 90s, rely on control and getting ahead of guys. The motto I live by is, ‘€˜Strike one is the best pitch in baseball.’€™ As long as you stick with that, you’€™ll be fine.”

A New Jersey native who now makes his home in Connecticut, Bailey said he’s looking forward to returning to the region.

‘€œI’€™m very excited,” he said. “This is where my family and I live in the offseason. I was born and raised in New Jersey and spend the offseasons in Connecticut. You can’€™t get much farther than Oakland to the East Coast. I’€™m definitely excited to play baseball on the East Coast and for the Red Sox.’€

Following are more highlights from the interview.

On pitching in Boston: “Obviously, pitching — and closing, for that matter — is bigger in Boston. Obviously, the market’€™s a lot bigger, but I think I’€™ll be fine with that. The last three years have been great, being able to close against the teams I’€™m going to be closing against in the same league. It’€™s not like I’€™m going to different territory or a new league that I need to know all the hitters. It’€™s the same guys I’ve been facing for the last three years, just with a different uniform on. The only things I can work on are one, obviously, staying healthy, and two, sticking to my guns and being who I am. Just because I’€™m wearing a different uniform doesn’€™t mean I’€™m going to change on or off the field. That’€™s kind of what my thoughts are now.”

On joining the Red Sox: “It’€™s obviously looking good. These guys have been around for a while and have competed in the highest games of Major League Baseball. I’m looking forward to, obviously I’ve got to learn from them. They’€™ve been there. Some of the questions from before — How am I going to do down the road? — that’€™s what teammates are for. If I have questions about how to get people out or whatever, I’€™m not a guy that’€™s going to be — if I have questions I’€™m going to ask them. And I’€™m going to do what’s best for the team. Whatever role that’€™s in, I’€™ll be fine.

“Obviously, with the starters and the rest of the bullpen guys, I’€™m looking forward to it. Most baseball guys are alike or at least I hope so. I think I’€™m pretty easy to get along with, so I’€™m liking the way it’€™s shaping up. I think it’€™s going to be a fun year.”

On the challenges of pitching in the AL East: ‘€œObviously, the AL East is one of the biggest divisions. Obviously, with the additions that the Rangers and Angels have made, they’re up there as well. The AL East is the toughest division in baseball. There are a lot of parks, Fenway included, Yankee Stadium, a lot of homers, and Toronto. It’€™ll be a challenge to keep the ball in the park, stay down in the zone. For some reason, I don’t think I have anyone’€™s number.

On pitching in Fenway: “Memories, the one that sticks out the most is my first save opportunity this year was against the Red Sox and I actually blew that save. From what I remember, there’€™s nothing like the atmosphere of running into the game from the bullpen at Fenway Park. You can’€™t put it into words. It’€™s something that I look forward to doing day in and day out in a Red Sox uniform. That’€™s something that I’€™ll always remember, up there with my major league debut. That’€™s how it is. Fenway is the greatest stadium in baseball, and being able to pitch in that uniform and in that stadium is something I’€™ll never forget.”

On Ryan Sweeney: ‘€œHe’€™s a good friend of mine. I’€™m excited to have him along. Obviously, he’€™s a really good defender. He didn’€™t play too much last year, was more of a fourth outfielder. He’€™s a guy that’€™s got a ton of potential, one of the best defenders in all of baseball. You look at his stats, he’€™s a big-time singles, doubles guy. He doesn’€™t really drive the ball out of the ballpark but he gets things done. He usually floats around .290, .300 for most of the year. He’€™s a guy who brings good character into the clubhouse. He’€™s not an ego guy, either. I’€™m looking forward to being able to start this with him. I’€™m excited that he’€™s going be there with me.”

On joining the Red Sox: ‘€œI’€™m excited, obviously. It’€™s an organization that continues to win each and every year and is definitely a contender each and every year. And speaking with Billy Beane today and obviously with the trades the A’€™s have already made this offseason, that organization is headed down a different road where they’€™re trying to get younger and build for a future in San Jose. I’€™m just grateful for the fact that the Red Sox saw value in me and they’€™d be able to bring some talent to the A’€™s and build for the future. I’€™d be lying if I said I wasn’€™t excited about being a Red Sox.’€

On his elbow: ‘€œI thought we’€™d get a couple of more questions in before that came up. I’€™m feeling good, man, to be honest with you. This is my first healthy offseason I’€™ve had since I’€™ve been in the big leagues. In 2009, I had a little procedure done on my knee that I had to rehab in the middle of December. Last year was the bone chips and bone spurs being taken out and that kind of lingered into spring training and into the season. That being said, this is the first time I’€™ve been healthy and not having to rehab anything until the middle of December or even into spring training. I’€™ve been able to get after it from day one, and so far, knock on wood, healthy and strong and looking forward to spring training.’€

On Bobby Valentine: ‘€œI spoke to Bobby after I got off the phone with Ben Cherington. Bobby and I are good friends. We do a lot of charity work up here in Connecticut. He does a lot with the foundation I’€™m a part of. Bobby and I have a good relationship and he’€™s excited to have me on board and I’€™m excited to be there for him and we spoke about this year and how it’€™s our first year, obviously, his first year as manager and mine over there as pitcher. We’€™re both looking forward to it and it just kind of helps knowing someone going in.’€

On looking forward to playing in a pennant race:
‘€œYou said it best. I haven’€™t experienced it yet. I’€™m looking forward to experiencing it. It’€™s something that I think every kid out there playing T-ball strives to pitch in the postseason and in meaningful games in September and ultimately the World Series. I’€™m going to welcome that with open arms. It’€™s not going to change the style that I attack the hitters. I’€™m aggressive and like to go right after guys. As long as I stick to my guns and trust my stuff, I’€™ll be fine, I’€™m sure. I’€™m a guy that is just kind of easygoing and likes to go after guys and get people out. It’€™s the same three outs it is in April that it is in September. You’€™ve just got to make your pitches.’€

On having some friends who are Yankees fans: ‘€œGoing to college in Staten Island, a lot of my buddies have already texted me. You know, they’re diehard Yankee fans. It will be fun. I’€™m looking forward to it. I have a lot of friends who are Red Sox fans. It will be fun to be part of the rivalry, especially me growing up in New Jersey, I know a lot about it. I’€™m looking forward to being a part of it.’€

More on Bobby Valentine: ‘€œIt’€™s a good relationship. He’€™s a great guy. Brings a lot of energy to anything he does. That’€™s why he’€™s perfect for what he does for us. My ex-teammate Craig Breslow and I, we have a foundation called the Strike Three Foundation. It raises money for pediatric cancer research. Bobby V. emceed this year and last year’€™s event and also has helped us out with some smaller engagements as well in Connecticut and New York. Just from those, I know him a little bit. Just kind of met him the last couple of years. The energy that he brings ‘€¦ he’€™s very engaging. He’€™s going to do great with this bunch of guys in Boston. I don’€™t know him too well, but he’€™s hard not to like. I’€™m sure everyone will get along well with him.’€

Read More: Andrew Bailey, ben cherington, Bobby Valentine, ryan sweeney
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