A second opinion confirmed that Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey has a torn UCL in his right thumb. He’s scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday and will likely miss 3-4 months.
It turns out that Bailey was hurt in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Alex Presley at first base in his March 21 outing, though he thought nothing of it initially and made two more appearances afterwards on March 24 and 25. When his thumb became more of a problem, the Red Sox sent him for tests and the torn ligament was found.
While it’s disappointing news on the heels of a seemingly disappointing winter for Red Sox fans, this isn’t necessarily the worst thing for the team. Given his history of elbow problems, Bailey wasn’t at all likely to pitch 70 innings this season anyway. Now he’ll only need his elbow to hold up for half the year, increasing the chances that he’ll help the Red Sox in September and, hopefully, October.
In the meantime, the Red Sox can turn the closer’s role over to either Mark Melancon, who closed for the Astros last year, or Mr. Versatility, Alfredo Aceves. The guess here is that Melancon will get the first crack at the role, with Aceves serving as the fallback.
The Red Sox have no plans to shift Daniel Bard back to the pen to help replace Bailey, but that too will be a possibility if he doesn’t adjust well to a rotation role. Aaron Cook has looked better than expected while being brought along slowly this spring and could step into the rotation by the end of April if the Red Sox decide Bard isn’t working out.
Update: A source told the Boston Herald that Bailey is more likely to miss 4-5 months than 3-4. Bobby Valentine said he has no plans to identify a closer right now and that we’ll just have to settle for finding out when the first save situation arises.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: