Marc Narducci: Bailey hasn't forgotten his roots

Boston reliever Andrew Bailey, recovering from shoulder surgery, still keeps tabs on local teams.
Boston reliever Andrew Bailey, recovering from shoulder surgery, still keeps tabs on local teams. (CHARLES KRUPA / AP)
Posted: September 09, 2013

BOSTON - Andrew Bailey saw a visiting reporter from South Jersey in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse recently and was interested in catching up with the local teams.

Out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery on July 24, the righthanded reliever and 2002 Paul VI graduate wanted an update on his former American Legion team.

"How did Haddon Heights do this year?" he asked.

Bailey, 29, pitched for the greatest team in Haddon Heights American Legion history, the 2003 squad that advanced to the World Series in Bartlesville, Okla. That was the year that two teams from South Jersey were among the final eight World Series teams, with West Deptford also there.

Neither local team won the Series, but both generated plenty of positive national attention to South Jersey baseball.

Bailey always has taken great pride in his roots. When told that this year's Heights team missed qualifying as one of the final eight in the state tournament by a game, he wore a pained expression.

When told that Brooklawn won this year's American Legion World Series, he became excited.

"They are amazing," he said of a Brooklawn program that has long had the reputation as one of the country's best.

Now, Bailey hopes to do something just as amazing - put yet another injury behind him.

Bailey was a two-time all-star with the Oakland A's and was supposed to be a difference maker when Boston acquired him to be its closer in December 2011.

He just hasn't been able to stay healthy.

Bailey missed the team's first 116 games last year after recovering from thumb surgery.

This year, he was 3-1 with a 3.77 ERA and eight saves in 30 appearances before suffering his shoulder injury.

Bailey also spent a month and a half on the disabled list with injuries in 2010, and nearly two months on the list in 2011, while with Oakland.

"It is not my first time [being injured], and part of you wants to be frustrated because you have been hurt so long with so many different injuries," Bailey said. "You can't take that mentality."

No, he is staying positive, and he said he will root as hard for the Red Sox, who are likely headed to the postseason after a 69-93 record last year.

"My mentality is to keep on looking forward and seeing that tunnel ahead and, in the end, knowing in your heart you will be doing what you love doing," he said.

Bailey said he feels great, but even he isn't sure when he'll return.

"I will probably start throwing around the four- or five-month mark [from the July 24 surgery] and then we will go from there," he said.

He would like to be pitching for the Red Sox, but it isn't his call.

Bailey earned $4.1 million this season with Boston, but he has another year of arbitration. He likely would earn a raise in arbitration, and it's not known whether Boston would tender him an offer or allow him to become a free agent.

"I want to be here and still have one more year of arbitration, and we will see what happens with that," Bailey said. "I am looking forward to being around the guys the rest of the season and make a run at this thing."

Before departing, he had one more question.

"How will the [Philadelphia] Eagles do this year?" Bailey asked. "I am really excited about them."

About as excited as South Jersey baseball fans would be to see one of the area's all-time class acts return to his all-star form.

Contact Marc Narducci at Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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