Things have not exactly gone as planned in the back end of the Red Sox bullpen so far this season. The closer whom the Red Sox traded for this offseason, Joel Hanrahan, is out for the remainder of the season as he undergoes elbow surgery after recording just four saves.
Set-up man and former closer Andrew Bailey has only appeared in 13 games and is now on the disabled list with right bicep tightness, forcing the Red Sox to go with Junichi Tazawa as their closer in the meantime. Tazawa has appeared in two games since being tabbed with the closers title and allowed a run in each of those appearances, including a home run in the ninth inning of a tie game last Saturday in the Sox’ loss to the Blue Jays. Following the game he acknowledged there is some added pressure being the closer.
“I think there is some additional pressure to perform well, but I’m just trying to concentrate on each pitch,” Tazawa said through an interpreter. “I think I’ll be able to perform fine.”
As it stands now, the key to the bullpen is Bailey, as he is the only reliever who seems equipped to handle the added pressure of closing games. With Bailey in that role it allows other members of the bullpen to pitch in roles they are more comfortable with.
The team has two outstanding set-up guys in Koji Uehara and Tazawa. Uehara is sixth in the American League in holds (eight), and has held opponents scoreless in 13 of 16 appearances. Tazawa, who is much more suited for this role than closer, is second in the AL in holds with nine.
With Bailey scheduled to return Monday, at the latest, according to manager John Farrell, the bullpen should be able to get back to normal. Bailey has performed quite well this season and has the track record to show he is capable of holding down the fort at closer for a full season, having recorded 24 or more saves in three straight years in Oakland from 2009-2011. In 13 appearances this season, Bailey has allowed just two runs in 12 1/3 innings (1.46 ERA), while striking out 20 and recording five saves. But, as it always seems to be the case with the 28-year-old, the key is staying healthy. It's a "wait and see" on that front.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84