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Andrew Bailey: ‘I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel’

06.21.12 at 8:10 pm ET

The Red Sox have played 70 games thus far this year, and the man whom they acquired this winter to be their closer has been a part of none of them. But that tally could change in the no-longer-distant future.

On Wednesday, Andrew Bailey threw his first bullpen session in his ongoing rehab from surgery in April to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb. He viewed the development as something of a milestone.

“It’s obviously a big step,” said Bailey, who reported that he threw mostly fastballs but also worked in some breaking balls over his 25-pitch session. “I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“My thumb feels great. It’€™s 100 percent,” he added. “I’€™m ready to get back into the swing of things.”

Bailey said he will throw another bullpen session on Friday and then he will be re-evaluated as the team continues to plot his rehab course. He expects to head to For Myers to continue his rehab when the team leaves town on Wednesday for a roadtrip. Manager Bobby Valentine said that once the right-hander is ready to pitch in games, he will likely need to throw eight or nine innings — roughly a spring training workload — to be ready to return to the majors. There is no timetable on when Bailey will be ready to start a rehab assignment or how long it might take him to pitch the requisite number of innings to prepare him for big league competition, but Valentine anticipated that it would take fewer than the roughly four weeks that it takes relievers to shoulder such a workload during spring training.

For obvious reasons, Bailey — acquired in the offseason along with outfielder Ryan Sweeney in exchange for outfielder Josh Reddick, corner infielder Miles Head and right-hander Raul Alcantera — is eager to return to a team for whom he’s never pitched. The fact that he’s now worked his way back to being able to throw a ball off the mound only intensifies that feeling.

“It sucks. I want to be out there more than anyone,” Bailey said. “Guys are playing good baseball right now, and it’€™s definitely hard to sit back and watch, especially when you’€™re not here, when you’€™re down in Florida and rooting for the guys. I’€™m working my butt off to get back and hopefully help the team.”

That said, Bailey marvels at what the Red Sox bullpen has accomplished. After a poor start, Sox relievers have the best ERA in the majors (1.99) since April 23. During that span, Alfredo Aceves has a 1.59 ERA and has converted 15 of 16 save opportunities.

From afar, Bailey has admired their efforts. But now, he is hopeful of having the opportunity to contribute to them.

“He’€™s done great. Nothing wrong with what he’€™s doing. He’€™s shutting the door down. It’€™s fun to watch that. It’€™s a hard situation to jump into with me going down at the end of spring training and him fighting for that starting job and then having to go into the closer’€™s mentality right away. He’€™s done a fantastic job. You can’€™t ask for anything better from him,” said Bailey. “They’€™re doing a great job holding it down. I’€™m looking forward to joining them, hopefully soon.’€

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