PAWTUCKET — Andrew Bailey doesn’t know when he may return to the Boston Red Sox, but he’s more than anxious to do so.
In Pawtucket’s 6-3 loss to the Syracuse Chiefs at McCoy Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Bailey relieved starter Billy Buckner in the sixth inning and allowed just one hit (without a walk and fanned a pair in his one-frame stint.
That, coupled with a solid outing the night before when he hurled one inning of flawless ball (with a strikeout), the 28-year-old from Cherry Hills, N.J. likes how he’s feeling.
“It went well, and it’s a step in the right direction,” offered Bailey, who’s on a 30-day rehab assignment with the PawSox after being on the disabled list all season. He suffered an injury to his right thumb while applying a tag at first base late in Spring Training, just days before Boston’s opener in April.
He had surgery shortly thereafter, and has been working his way back.
He made two relief appearances with the Gulf Coast Red Sox and another with Double-A Portland on Sunday; in three innings, he allowed one run and whiffed a half-dozen.
On Thursday, he got Syracuse shortstop Zach Walters on a called third strike; yielded a ground, opposite-field single to Jarrett Hoffpauir; then struck out catcher Carlos Maldonado before forcing Brett Carroll to foul out to first base.
“I was just going for a strikeout,” he said of fanning Walters. “I like to be aggressive in the zone and challenge the hitters. That first strikeout was 80 mph, a curveball, and I burned that one. That was more of a bounce curveball.
“I feel like I’m really close (to a callup),” he added. “But I’m just going along with the process. I’ve been itching to get back (to Boston). We’ve got some ball games to win … I feel confident every time I’m on the mound. Even when you have a bad outing, you have to be confident when you go out there the next day.
“You’ve got to understand, this is a milestone. I was efficient on the side, and it feels good to get a full inning in. (On Wednesday night), my cutter was a little better than it was (Thursday), but I feel I had a better fastball. There’s confidence in my cutter; it was all about making it smaller (or tighter), and to be able to do that was huge. I mean, you don’t have that every day.”
Bailey indicated he wanted to head home to New Jersey to see some family members, then would do whatever BoSox brass asked him to do. The righty had been acquired by Boston last December in a trade with Oakland, one in which they sent outfielder Josh Reddick, righty Raul Alcantara and first baseman Miles Head to the A’s.
In 2007, Bailey captured the American League Rookie of the Year laurel, and was named an A.L. All-Star in both 2009 and ’10. In three seasons in Oakland, he mustered a 7-10 mark but posted a 2.07 ERA along with 75 saves (26 in 2009, 25 in ’10 and 24 in ’11).
“I’ll wait to find out what my (next) assignment will be, but I can’t wait to join the team,” he noted. “I can’t see it being too much longer, but I understand there’s a process that needs to be followed.”
Stated skipper Arnie Beyeler: “Andrew did a nice job out there. He threw strikes, and he controlled the running game (the Chiefs stole four bases, none off Bailey). When a guy’s on rehab, he may be just worried about his pitches, but he was concerned with controlling the runners.
“He worked to contact and got hitters out. It was nice to see; he did a great job.”