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Tale of two relievers: Andrew Bailey still looking for answers, while Koji Uehara keeps on rolling

06.28.13 at 11:56 pm ET
By
Andrew Bailey

Andrew Bailey

With one swing of the bat, 10 steps forward were wiped out with one giant leap back.

Andrew Bailey’s road to rediscovering his effectiveness was seemingly trucking along nicely through the first 10 pitches of his outing Friday night. The reliever’s velocity was suddenly touching 95-96 mph throughout his seventh inning appearance, helping lead to strikeouts of both Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista.

But, after a first-pitch ball to Edwin Encarnacion, then came the pitch that led reporters back to Bailey’s locker following the Red Sox’ 7-5 win over Toronto. A mislocated 94 mph heater was deposited in the center field seats, tying the game and leading Bailey back to the drawing board.

“I feel good, I’ve said that all along. Just get back to executing pitches,” the reliever said. “We got the first two guys and just trying to challenge the third guy. I’m not going to get away from the success over my career. I’m not going to change anything. Still got to be aggressive. You have to throw strikes to get people out.

“Right now when they’re hitting me, they’re hitting me hard. Once again the team grinds back and we win. It’s just unfortunate [Allen Webster] didn’t get the win. I’m getting there. This is a very frustrating time, but I know I still have confidence and I’m not going to change anything out there. Obviously execute pitches a little bit better, but that’s all I really have to change. I’ll get out of this, for sure.”

Bailey has now given up at least one run in seven of his last eight appearances, surrendering five home runs in the process.

Initially, it appeared as though the four days rest, coupled with some tweaking of his pitching mechanics, would pay dividends.

“He looked great tonight,” said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. “Unfortunately everyone is going to harp on one pitch. That’s not fair to him, but in the process of things he’s getting better. He threw a split tonight. His cutter has been getting better. It’s become more of a cutter than a slider. It’s a process he’s going through right now. I’ve definitely seen some adjustments, and he’s getting better.”

But then there was that one pitch to Encarnacion, a hitter who came into the game hitting .300 with 12 home runs against fastballs.

“You have to think about the good ones,” Bailey said. “I felt great tonight and threw some quality pitches and got the first two guys. You have to learn from your mistakes. If you dwell on them you’ll take them into your next outing. I’ll be ready to go tomorrow and just remember the first two hitters. It’s one of those things you have to learn from your mistakes, but also remember about the good ones.

The reliever added, “I feel like my velo is getting better. That life was there. I felt like it was coming out of my hand better. Just been working on some different things. When I go out there it’s just about being aggressive in the zone and challenging guys. Tonight he got me. These guys have been picking me up obviously on the field, but off the field, as well. It really challenges your character when you’re struggling. Just have to keep grinding and get back out there. John showed faith in me in putting me in these situations I’ve had success with in my career. Just have to get back to challenging guys and getting outs. Obviously today wasn’t fun but I got two outs and it’s a step in the right direction from where it was for a while. We’ll get there.”

As for Bailey’s replacement in the closer’s role, Koji Uehara, no adjustments are necessary.

Uehara converted his fourth save in as many chances, notching a 1-2-3 ninth inning while pitching for a third straight game. During his last three outings, the righty hasn’t allowed a hit while striking out six and not walking a batter. It’s a span he has thrown 44 pitches, 33 of which have been for strikes.

“Man, he’s awesome,” said Bailey of Uehara. “He’s fun to watch. It’s unbelievable. He’s definitely been our guy down there all year that has been that rock that you can call on any time and he’s ready to go. What he’s done the last three nights is fantastic. It’s definitely fun to watch. it’s like a video game to him. It’s pretty interesting. It’s awesome.”

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