PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) ― Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey was glad to see the arrival of designated hitter Hideki Matsui at spring camp on Sunday.
“He sums it all up. He’s the World Series MVP (in 2009, with the New York Yankees). He gives us professionalism, veteran leadership and experience,” Bailey said.
In time, Matsui also should come to appreciate what Bailey can offer.
The 26-year-old right-hander was American League Rookie of the Year in 2009 and an AL All-Star in 2009 and 2010. He has a 1.70 ERA in 132 1-3 career innings.
And, in two seasons as the A’s closer, he has 51 saves.
Had it not been for injuries, he might have had more. He spent a month and a half on the disabled list in 2010 and on Sept. 24 had surgery to remove debris from his right elbow.
He said he feels fine now, and Athletics manager Bob Geren doesn’t anticipate any difficulties after watching him throw here.
“If you didn’t know (he had surgery), you wouldn’t notice after watching him out there,” Geren said. “Where he’s at with velocity, everything seems to be there.”
Oakland signed left-hander Brian Fuentes as a free agent in January. But despite 187 career saves, Fuentes mainly will be in a setup role and Bailey will continue to be the closer.
“Bailey is definitely the closer, and Brian understands that,” Geren said.
Bailey is not taking anything for granted. He dropped 15 pounds over the winter, and now is at 235.
“I don’t know as we have any roles yet,” he said. “We have a deep bullpen and there are a lot of different options. I’m cool with it.”
He will absorb what he can from Fuentes, just as he did from Michael Wuertz and Russ Springer when he was learning the ropes as a closer in 2009. Bailey began his career as a starter and has 47 minor-league starts.
“My first career save was in the big leagues,” Bailey said, almost sounding amazed.
The Athletics wanted him to try closing in 2008 while pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
“I was struggling bad as a starter,” he said. “There was always that one bad inning. I’d have a few shutout innings and then a really bad one. Before you knew it, my ERA had gone through the roof.
“When I first started closing in the Fall League, I’m sure there was some ‘Is he going to make it?’”
“I looked at it as an opportunity rather than a demotion.”
A closer has to have a positive outlook, Bailey said.
“You can’t be afraid. You have to come in and shut the door,” he said. “It’s ‘me vs. you.’ You have to allow them to hit the ball sometimes, make the defense work for you.
“The great thing about this role is that you get to come to the ballpark every day and have a chance to pitch. There’s that pressure, that adrenalin rush.”
Notes: Position players don’t officially work out for the first time until Monday, but Matsui went through a light workout, taking some swings in the covered batting cage. It rained most of the morning and the temperature was around 50. He will be the DH, but could see some time in the outfield this spring. “It’s not bad for him to keep those skills up,” Geren said. … first baseman Daric Barton and outfielder David DeJesus likely will alternate in the second and third spots in the batting order.
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