I name dropped him in the ST roster battles post yesterday morning, but I think Andrew Bailey deserves a little more digital ink based on the news that came out yesterday. Via Chad Jennings, Bailey threw a bullpen yesterday afternoon. Like Ivan Nova, he's been back throwing bullpens for a while now and he spoke like a player who felt he was almost back to normal game shape:
“I came in and spent the offseason training, working as I would if I played last year. The doctor gave me 18, 24 months (to be healthy after surgery), and we’re in that 18th, 19th month. Everyone around here, training staff, coaches and strength and conditioning have all kind of (treated it as if) I’m a normal guy with some needs. Hopefully we get rid of those needs. Everything feels great. I’m with the team and doing everything as I would normally, and if I need a little extra work here or there, that’s fine too. I’m here to compete and earn a spot...
To feel as good as I do and locate as well as I have been, it’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Bailey said. “I feel fresh and ready to go, and excited for the next step.”
That next step sounds like it's going to be making back-to-back appearances at some point when ST games start. While his body and shoulder may feel light years better, Bailey still isn't back to a normal pitching workload, and Joe said he wants to see how Bailey handles that before considering him a true candidate for the Opening Day roster. Regardless, Bailey's progress is encouraging and it makes the Yankees look pretty smart for pulling the decline/re-sign move with him in November.
What could Bailey eventually contribute? ZiPs projects a 4.35 ERA/4.53 FIP with 25 K in 20.2 IP, which seems pretty fair considering he's thrown less than 45 MLB innings over the last 3 seasons. But if he continues to feel good through ST and his body holds up to regular game work, he could easily outperform those projections, in terms of IP if nothing else. Keep in mind that we're talking about a guy with closing experience who was very good in his first 3 years, is still relatively young at age 30, and was K'ing dudes at a 33.6% clip the last time he was pitching in the Majors.
There are a number of different things Joe could do with Bailey to strengthen an already deep and talented bullpen. The Yankees initially signed him with this year in mind, similar to how they nabbed David Aardsma a few years ago. That didn't exactly work out, but that's no reason to think that this attempt will end the same way. If his shoulder is back to full strength or as close to full strength as it can be after the injury, Bailey could be one of this season's pleasant surprises.