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John Farrell on Andrew Bailey: ‘He’s our closer’

06.18.13 at 11:52 pm ET

It has been an ugly and costly stretch for Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey, though certainly, it could have been worse.

For the third time in four outings, Bailey — who was entrusted with the ninth inning of a game in which the Sox led the Rays, 1-0 — gave up a homer, this one a game-tying shot by Kelly Johnson that nearly wasted the career-best outing by starter Felix Doubront. Bailey avoided further harm, and so the closer’s teammates were able to offer their support in the form of a bottom-of-the-ninth, two-run, walkoff homer by Jonny Gomes. It marked the second time in four outings that Bailey had blown a save only to have the Sox recover to claim a victory.

Still, while the Sox enjoyed an opportunity to celebrate and Bailey expressed his gratitude for the backing of his teammates, his recent struggles represent obvious cause for concern. He’s permitted five runs in his last four innings (11.25 ERA) after yielding just three in his first 18 1/3 frames this year (1.47 ERA).

“They’re squaring up baseballs. I’ve got to pitch better. That’s the bottom line,” said Bailey. “I’m throwing the ball down the middle. I’ve just got to keep grinding through it and focus a little more. I’ll get through it. I’ve been pitching in this league for a couple years now and had success. I’ve got to get back to doing that.”

Yet despite Bailey’s recent inability to shut down lineups — this was the second straight outing in which he was taken deep, following a heart-attack, two-run save in Baltimore that featured a homer by Matt Wieters — manager John Farrell said he remains committed to Bailey as the last line of defense in the ninth.

“He’€™s our closer. Got some work to do. It’€™s the same pitch that he’€™s been beat on with the longball the last two times out and we’€™ve got to get him more consistent, no doubt. But he’€™s our closer,” said Farrell.

As for the work for Bailey to do?

“He’€™s been beaten on the fastball up. Hitters are going to go in and look up with him and right now, there’€™s not that second gear that we’€™ve seen with his fastball where he’€™s beaten a number of hitters with some velocity up in the strike zone,” said Farrell. “They’€™ve taken a number of borderline breaking pitches. Tow things, one is to get the fastball down and be a little bit more consistent with the secondary pitch to get them off just looking hard all the time in the at- bat.”

Bailey suggests that he’s healthy, and that his mechanics look fine when he reviews video with pitching coach Juan Nieves. Still, as much as he suggests that he remains confident, he also acknowledges that the disappointment of his struggles are somewhat lessened by the fact that, of his three blown saves (in 11 opportunities), all have resulted in victories.

“We’ve got a really good team here, and the sign of a good team is guys picking each other up,” said Bailey. “I’ve got to figure out what I’m going through, but these guys are grinding every day. We’ll get through it.”

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