Strike-throwing and second chances: A reintroduction to Andrew Bailey

As a pitcher, Andrew Bailey’s time in Boston was short and frustrating, bookended by injuries and surgeries.

How he’ll fare as the Red Sox’s new pitching coach remains to be seen, but he’s thrilled and grateful to get a second chance.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with Boston, you know, be a Red Sock again, and come back to the organization in a different capacity,” he said over Zoom on Tuesday. “Life’s too short to turn down opportunities like this.”

By his own admission, he knows how disappointing this game can be. He began his career with back-to-back All-Star seasons in Oakland, where he was named 2009 American League Rookie of the Year. They traded him to Boston, and made 49 appearances for the Red Sox between 2012-13, meaning he was part of one of the worst seasons in franchise history and one of the greatest.

“I know what failure feels like in a major market and in Boston, specifically,” he said. “I know what it’s like to blow a save in Boston… We won the World Series and we finished last place. I experienced both of those, so I’ve kind of run the gamut.”

“I was brought here to do a job, and unfortunately, as a player I wasn’t able to do that job to the best of my ability due to injuries,” he said. “It’s not too frequent you get a second opportunity to kind of right the ship in a different capacity, so to say.”

In round two, Bailey will tackle an area in which the Red Sox have struggled mightily over the last half-decade, and for much of the century. If he can do for them what he did for the San Francisco Giants, who boasted some of the best pitching in the game over his four years as their pitching coach (sixth-best ERA, third in strikeout-to-walk ratio), it will be a stunning transformation.

“The goal is to have a lot more frontline starters and a system that is feeding the major league team,” he said.

“I’m always a fan of run prevention” and “Strikes are everything” are two pillars of his pitching philosophy. Only nine teams posted worse ERAs than Boston in 2023. Red Sox pitchers allowed a combined 718 earned runs (776 total), but they were better than league average in strikeouts, and limiting walks (8.1%). Bailey’s Giants were the best; they led the way with a 6.7% walk rate, the only club below 7%.

Historically, the Red Sox have relied heavily upon outside pitchers to lead them to their four championships this century, but they currently have a rising homegrown star in Brayan Bello. Last spring training, Pedro Martinez told the Herald that he believes the 24-year-old right-hander can win multiple Cy Young awards. Bailey wasn’t quite as effusive when discussing the homegrown talent, but did describe Bello as “a special player, a special pitcher.”

“He’s at a very, very high ceiling, and we expect him to keep on developing,” he said. “There’s definitely special attributes about him that we’ll be doubling down on… but Bello has the potential to be a frontline starter.”

Bailey’s doctrine emphasizes ongoing adjustment, evolution, and openness to change. “I believe that, philosophically speaking, that players are never finished products,” he explained. “I think, if we ever are a little bit complacent in that, negativity can creep in and poor performance.”

Tuesday was Bailey’s first official day on the job, but he’s already familiar with several of the arms he’ll be working with in the coming months. He said he was “fortunate” to work with Mauricio Llovera, the reliever whom the Red Sox acquired from the Giants at the 2023 trade deadline, and joked about having to see Kenley Jansen “too much” when the Dodgers and Giants would face off. He mentioned watching Chris Sale “dominate for years,” and singled out Garrett Whitlock when discussing the young pitching talent on the roster.

“I think there’s a litany of arms that are special in Boston,” he said, “And I’m hoping to help them perform at their best as often as possible.”

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