WASHINGTON — As planned, the Boston Red Sox will have a new closer to open the season. It just won’t be Andrew Bailey.
The Red Sox announced Tuesday that Bailey will have surgery on his right thumb, likely ruling him out for most of the season.
“I don’t think it will be before the All-Star break — is what the trainer told me,” manager Bobby Valentine said when asked for a timetable for Bailey’s return.
Both Bailey and ace Josh Beckett were in Cleveland to see Dr. Thomas Graham for second opinions on their respective thumb injuries. Beckett was deemed OK and remains scheduled to start Saturday at Detroit in Boston’s second game of the season, but Bailey was diagnosed as needing an operation to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament.
The surgery will be performed Wednesday.
“That’s a tough break. He was sitting right next to me in spring this year, and the whole spring he was saying ‘I feel really good, really good,’ and then something like that happens,” said Clay Buchholz, who started Tuesday’s 8-7 win over the Washington Nationals in Boston’s final spring training game. “I think everybody in there feels for him. He’s going to play a big role on our team as soon as he’s back, but it’s tough. There’s going to have to be a couple of guys on this team step up and fill some shoes, and it’s going to be big shoes to fill.”
The injury left Valentine scrambling for a Plan B to close out games. Candidates include Alfredo Aceves and Mark Melancon, but the manager said he wanted to keep his decision a secret heading into the three-game series against the Tigers. Aceves pitched a scoreless eighth against the Nationals on Tuesday and picked up the win.
“The guys that you’ve seen in the bullpen are going to hold down the fort, and do a job to help us win a lot of games,” Valentine said. “I think you saw Aceves there at the end; you’ll see him at the end of games. Melancon will be there at the end of games, for sure. … Detroit will find out hopefully on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.”
Valentine isn’t sure how Bailey was injured. The manager initially said the thumb began bothering the closer during a game against Pittsburgh on March 21, but Valentine wasn’t aware of it until Friday. Bailey traveled to Boston on Monday to have it checked out by Drs. Mark Belsky and Matthew Leibman before going to Cleveland.
“When I talked to him before he left, he was unknowing,” Valentine said. “He felt a little something. There really wasn’t a defining moment, in the last conversation I had with him.”
Bailey was acquired in a December trade with Oakland to replace Jonathan Papelbon, who left in the offseason to sign a $50 million, four-year contract with Philadelphia. Bailey was also sidelined at the start of spring training when he strained a lat during the vertical leap portion of his entrance physical, but returned to pitch six innings in six Grapefruit League games, with an 0-1 record and a 4.50 ERA.
Bailey also missed time with injuries each of the last two seasons. He began last year on the disabled list with the Athletics because of a strained right forearm, and in 2010 was sidelined with a right intercostal strain and later had right elbow surgery.
Melancon pitched in nine games this spring, posting an 0-1 record with a 5.59 ERA. He had 20 saves last season with Houston.
Aceves appeared in six Grapefruit League games, going 1-1 with three saves and a 5.21 ERA. He has four career saves over four major league seasons.
Both Melancon and Aceves said they were unaware of Valentine’s plans for replacing Bailey.
“It’s very unfortunate,” Melancon said. “But we’ve got a good bullpen and we’ll be all right.”
Beckett also has a bothersome right thumb, but Valentine indicated Beckett’s visit with Graham was more of a precaution. Beckett had the thumb examined in Texas on Monday before going to Cleveland.
“The good news for us is that their situations don’t seem to be the same,” Valentine said. “The bad news for us is that their situations aren’t the same. One seems to be a problem, and one seems not to be so.”