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No longer closing, Bailey still enthusiastic

Righty determined to show he can be durable, effective in setup role

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Andrew Bailey arrived at Spring Training as a non-closer for the first time in years, but that hasn't taken away any of his self-assurance or enthusiasm as he enters his second season with the Red Sox.

If anything, there is a quiet determination within the right-hander to prove that he can be durable and effective -- two things he wasn't in 2012.

After receiving the phone call from new manager John Farrell just after Christmas that he was relinquishing the closer's role to Joel Hanrahan, Bailey looked at the matter realistically rather than emotionally.

"When I first heard about it, I definitely understood," said Bailey. "I'm not naive enough to think that my health the last two years has been crystal clean. I definitely understood it, and it definitely makes us better. We have four or five closers down there -- or potential closers.

"It makes us that much better. At first, all relievers want to be a closer. I don't think my closing days are done, and I hope they're not done in Boston. That being said, going into the season with such a strong 'pen will give us that edge, at least early on."

More than anything, Bailey wants to win. He came to the Red Sox to do that, only to see his former team -- the Athletics -- thrive in his first year away from Oakland. Bailey and the Red Sox finished last.

Though Spring Training doesn't officially start for the Red Sox until Tuesday, Bailey was one of several players on the field at JetBlue Park on Friday. There's no better way to wipe the slate clean from a thoroughly disappointing season than to start anew.

"All I can say is that if I'm doing my job and [Hanrahan's] doing his job, we're going to win a lot of ballgames. That's what we're about," Bailey said. "Last year was a disaster for me personally and very frustrating as a team. I think everyone is out to do what they're capable of doing, and if we put that together, we should be getting to the playoffs and World Series. That's the end goal."

The one thing nearly every contending team has had in recent years is a dominant setup man. Bailey hopes he can be that guy in 2013.

"In my mind, just the inning changes," said Bailey. "For me, it's the same role -- it's just in a different inning. I've still got to put up a zero and get the ball to the next guy. There's no different preparation -- just a different job description."

While managers never look forward to having the type of conversation Farrell had with Bailey in late December, the reliever made it as comfortable as possible.

"Just talking with those who have been around him in the past and those that were here last year with him, I don't think anyone can say enough about who he is as a teammate and a guy," said Farrell. "The fact is this was something that was completely out of his control, going back to the injury and the addition of Joel in that trade. He's had a great attitude toward it. The way he has handled himself in this situation will speak volumes to his teammates."

It's hard to really take anything away from Bailey's 2012 season. He injured his right thumb in a seemingly innocuous collision in an early Grapefruit League game and didn't pitch for Boston until August -- at which time the season was already slipping away.

"For me, it was kind of getting my feet wet, getting ready and I competed as hard as I could, and the numbers are what they are," said Bailey, who posted a 7.04 ERA in 19 games. "I know I'm way better than that. Coming here healthy, I have a good offseason under my belt, getting ready for a full season. I'm excited for what's going to come."

Farrell, who was managing the Blue Jays last season, hasn't made any judgments on Bailey based on what transpired in 2012.

"For any player, when you miss that amount of time in a given year, you're always trying to play catch-up, and maybe coming in at the end of the year and forcing some things and not pitching or playing up to your previous levels," said Farrell. "That's normal. Last year, you almost look at as a mulligan year -- unfortunately -- with the way things transpired. But he's going to be a valuable guy for us late in the game."

While Bailey had a strong winter of preparation, he also made good use of his time off the field.

A resident of Connecticut, Bailey joined teammate Craig Breslow and former manager Bobby Valentine a couple of weeks ago at a youth baseball clinic in Newtown, Conn., a town heartbroken by the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"Just living in Connecticut, it was so close to home," Bailey said. "I'm 40 minutes from there, and not to say if I was in Massachusetts or somewhere else I wouldn't have gone, but just being in that area and just knowing, seeing the different news channels and following the stories a little bit, I just couldn't imagine what those kids are going through. It was nice to go up there and see the kids in such good spirits and meeting a lot of the kids who were at the elementary school. For me, it was just doing my part of what I could to help those kids kind of ease away from that memory."

Bailey hopes to cross paths with some Newtown families again once the season starts.

"Hopefully we can do something to maybe have them up to a game [at Fenway Park] during the season," Bailey said. "I think that would be nice to get some of the families out. We'll see -- whatever we can do for them."

Ian Browne is a reporter for Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne.
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