DETROIT -- Jeff Bailey was on the borderline of becoming a Minor League lifer -- a player who was good, but never quite good enough to break through into the Majors. Until the call finally came late on Thursday night. "Pack your stuff. You've been promoted." Bailey made his Major League debut on Friday night against the Tigers at Comerica Park after spending 11 seasons in the Minors without so much as one big-league at-bat.
"It means a lot, because rather than say, 'Oh, I played 15, 20 years in the Minor Leagues,' now I can say, 'Well, I played 15, 20 years in the Minor Leagues, but I made it to the big leagues,' " Bailey said. "And especially with the Red Sox. That always means more than with whoever it may be. I'm not going to throw any team names out there, but it's pretty special." Bailey was drafted in 1997 by the Marlins in the second round, but he never advanced past the Double-A level. His rights were traded to the Expos in 2002, and he played two seasons in their farm system before he was granted free agency. The Red Sox picked up Bailey's rights soon after, and he has made an impression on manager Terry Francona during Spring Training over the past couple of years. However, there was never a situation where the Red Sox could use him at the big-league level. But now, with first baseman Kevin Youkilis nursing a left quadriceps injury, Francona decided it was time to give Bailey a shot. So Bailey was penciled in the starting lineup on Friday, playing first base and batting eighth after 961 games and 3,251 at-bats in the Minors. Given that long of a stretch, even he began to question whether he would ever get a callup. "Oh, yeah. All the time," he said. "But you know what? I get to play baseball. "At any level, [baseball] is better than going back to school or going back to the paper mill." Though Bailey's stats haven't blown anyone away this year (.250 average with 40 RBIs in 74 games with Triple-A Pawtucket), Francona had a hunch that Bailey could give the Red Sox an added boost against Friday's lefty starter, Andrew Miller. Bailey has a .301 average against lefties this season. "Sometimes as coaches or managers we make a lot of statements that don't hold water," Francona said. "He looked to me like he had the ability to hit good pitching." Though the promotion was certainly good news came for Bailey, his parents won't be able to watch his debut. At least not live. "They had a wedding to go to today, so my dad was like, 'Yeah, we'll watch the first five innings, but then we've got to go to a wedding,'" Bailey said. "He's got the TiVo or whatever." All in all, a feel good story for Bailey. Even Francona was pleased for the 28-year-old. "You tell people so often, 'Hey, look, go do your job, plug away, and hopefully, there will be a time when we can bring you to the big leagues,' " Francona said. "Now when it happens, it is pretty cool. We wouldn't make decisions based on 'pretty cool,' but it is. There's no denying it." To make room for Bailey on the 25-man roster, Matt Clement was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. Jacoby Ellsbury was sent to Pawtucket on Thursday, completing the roster move. On the other end of the spectrum ...: Whereas Bailey has a vast knowledge of the Minors, Miller knows next to nothing about long bus rides through the Triple-A levels. Miller, a first-round selection by the Tigers in last year's Draft, spent just three games at Class A Lakeland before making his big-league debut last season. He appeared in just 11 games in the Minors this season before he was put into the Tigers' starting rotation earlier this season. "I never saw him," Bailey said of Miller. "We played [the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate] early on, and I think he's been up the whole year." Not quite the whole year, but Miller has never made a start at Triple-A, earning a promotion straight from Double-A Erie. Advance knowledge: The final results for the All-Star Game Final Vote weren't announced until Thursday, but All-Star manager Jim Leyland already had a pretty good idea that Hideki Okajima would get the selection. "I had my own guy [Jeremy Bonderman] on the [Final Vote] list, I had other guys that I thought were deserving, and I knew when I put [Okajima] on the list that he was going to win it, to be honest with you," Leyland said prior to Friday's game. "There was no doubt in my mind. It was going to be a slam dunk. "But you know what? In my heart, he deserves it. He should be on the All-Star team, because I wanted to reward guys like that. It's the setup guys who never get recognition, and this kid's been unbelievable, and he deserves it. He's been fantastic." Leyland added that if Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez can't participate in the All-Star Game, Mike Lowell would get the start. Papi's fine: David Ortiz wasn't in Friday's starting lineup, but he's fine, according to Francona, who made the decision a couple of days ago so the slugger could relax on the plane ride to Detroit. "I think, sometimes, when you give players a place to point to [having a day off], it can help," Francona said. "It's hard to explain, but sometimes when guys are in that rhythm of playing, you can sit down on the plane ride and take a deep breath, and sometimes they need that." Manny Ramirez took over at designated hitter, with Wily Mo Pena getting the start in left field. Up next: Kason Gabbard (2-0, 5.79 ERA) will make his first career start against the Tigers at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Bonderman (9-1, 3.58) will start for the Tigers.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.