ANAHEIM — It’s been a long road back to the ninth inning for the Angels’ Andrew Bailey, but the right-hander is grateful for a new lease on his pitching career.
Bailey, a two-time All-Star closer with the A’s and the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year, finds himself closing games in September for the Angels. On Monday night, he notched his second save against the A’s this month, and he’s 6-for-6 in save opportunities for Los Angeles since signing a minor league deal Aug. 12.
After undergoing a very involved shoulder surgery in July 2013, while he was still with the Red Sox, Bailey spent the next two years rehabbing before getting a late-season call-up with the Yankees last season.
He began this season pitching out of the Phillies’ bullpen, posting a 6.40 ERA before being released in August and signing on with the Angels, whose new general manager, Billy Eppler, was with the Yankees during Bailey’s time there. Suddenly, the now 32-year-old Bailey has found himself a closer again with the Angels’ regular closer, Huston Street (another former Athletic), sidelined after knee surgery.
“It’s something I’ve been trying to get back to for years,” Bailey said. “Not just the role but more importantly, feeling the way I’m feeling. It’s been a long road, but it just seems both have collided here in Anaheim.”
The A’s traded Bailey to Boston before the 2012 season for a return package that included Josh Reddick and Raul Alcantara. But Bailey pitched in just 44 innings over two seasons with the Sox. In the summer of ’13, he required surgery to repair the anterior capsule in his shoulder along with a cleanup of his labrum and rotator cuff. That’s an operation that essentially ended the careers of pitchers Johan Santana and Dallas Braden, and Bailey knew he was looking at a two-year recovery period.
He says he leaned heavily on his wife, Amanda, and their two children — daughter Theodora, and son, Matthew — for support.
Bailey said he’s lost a tick of velocity off his fastball but has evolved in other ways. His cutter has morphed into a slider, and he’s throwing his curve to both sides of the plate against both righties and lefties.
Facing the A’s strikes a special chord with Bailey.
“That organization will always be special to me,” Bailey said. “Definitely, those three years are highlights of my career. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know anybody on that team, or just a couple guys. It’s playing against those colors.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin said Sonny Gray will likely be on a pitch limit of around 30 pitches for Wednesday’s start. So expect the right-hander, who’s been out since Aug. 6 with a forearm strain, to only be on the mound for an inning or two.
Infielder Renato Nunez has been bothered by upper back soreness, but Melvin was expecting the rookie to possibly be available off the bench Tuesday night.