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Koji Uehara to close, but Andrew Bailey optimistic he’ll reclaim ninth-inning duties

06.21.13 at 7:55 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Detroit that if a save situation arises in the ninth inning on Friday night, he will entrust the responsibility for securing the game-ending three outs to right-hander Koji Uehara. The decision comes in the wake of Andrew Bailey‘s third blown save in five appearances on Thursday night, when he gave up a game-ending, two-run, walkoff homer to Jhonny Peralta.

“I had a chance to talk to both [Uehara] and Andrew, and just where we’re at, Andrew needs to back out and get some opportunities where he gets a little momentum,” Farrell told reporters. “We did this before with [Bailey] and [Joel Hanrahan] as well. All good players go through stretches where things aren’t happening for them, so that’s where we’re at right now.”

Given that the Sox have been trying to manage Uehara’s workload, Farrell suggested that others could see save opportunities at different times as well. He added Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa to the mix, while also noting that “in time” Bailey could also receive renewed chances to close out the ninth. Given that there is a willingness to involve others in closing opportunities, Farrell suggested that the separator in making Uehara the primary option was the fact that he has previous experience as a closer, specifically when he went 11-for-13 in save opportunities for the Orioles in 2010.

“We’re very confident when he walks to the mound. He’s been very good for us. He’s had success in closing opportunities previous,” Farrell told reporters. “There’s an element of not only dependability but success in the past that we’re turning to.”

Given the presence of Uehara, Miller and Tazawa (as well as the team’s longer-term belief that Bailey will once again be ready to close), Farrell said that he didn’t expect to see the Red Sox pursue a closer via trade.

“We’re obviously staying internal right now,” the manager told reporters. “I know [GM Ben Cherington] is always on the outlook to improve the team wherever he can, within reason. For the time being, we’re staying with who we have.”

For his part, Bailey said that he understood Farrell’s decision even as he expressed optimism that he will be able to reclaim the role of closer.

“One bad week doesn’t necessarily make it a bad year. The way I was throwing the ball in the beginning of the year, and missing time, I’m having a rough go of it,” Bailey told reporters. “I just kind of maybe need a little breather to work on some things and I’ll be back out there. I fully believe that I’m the guy here to do that job and right now, they’re going to go with someone else for a little bit but I don’t think it’s a permanent thing. … I feel like it’s my job and I’ll be back in there. I have confidence in that. I’ll just throw the ball like I know I can.”

Bailey did acknowledge that it’s possible that a change could be permanent. If that happens, he said, the reasons underlying an altered bullpen pecking order for the duration of the year would be positive from a team standpoint.

“They’ll back me out for a little bit. It could be a week, it could be two. Whatever they decide. that’s their decision,” Bailey told reporters. “If whoever fills that role goes in there and dominates, we’re winning ballgames, I don’t care. We’re in first place despite my struggles, which have been glaringly obvious lately. That’s a good thing. … The team is definitely picking me up. I just have to get myself get together. That’s it. One bad week doesn’t ruin a whole year.”

While Bailey acknowledged his struggles — foremost, the diminished power to his fastball that has either made that pitch homer-prone or a reluctance to use it (as was the case on Thursday against Peralta) that allowed an opposing hitter to attack his other offerings — he did suggest that, ultimately, he expects a satisfying resolution to this period of struggle.

“There’s a lot of games left, a lot of time left,” he told reporters. “I know that I’m going to throw that last pitch this year.”

Read More: Andrew Bailey, andrew miller, junichi tazawa, Koji Uehara
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