BOSTON -- Though Red Sox manager John Farrell knows that Andrew Bailey needs to start pitching better, he is not ready to make a change in the vital role of closer.
"Well, any time you can go to a guy to lock down a game in which you're supposed to win, I think that keeps momentum going within our clubhouse," said Farrell. "It keeps a positive atmosphere within that group, and yet, every good player is going to go through some ups and downs along the way, and that's where our job as a staff comes in to get him back on track and have them perform to their capabilities."
Bailey has given up runs in three of his last four appearances, posting an 11.25 ERA in that span. This, after the closer allowed runs in just three of his first 19 games.
A couple of things have been at work during the slide. Bailey, according to Farrell, has lost the "second gear" on his fastball. Also, Bailey hasn't been able to command his breaking ball.
"I think over the last four outings, it's been pretty clear that any time he throws a breaking ball, guys are spitting on it until he has thrown it for a strike," Farrell said. "An increase in consistency to his breaking ball will go a long way."
The Red Sox don't detect any health problems with Bailey, who was on the disabled list from April 29-May 20 with a right biceps strain.
"There's been no complaints of soreness, no adjustment to his warmup routine, so all those are consistent," Farrell said. "We're dealing with a human being."
"Andrew's had a couple tough outings here recently, but if you look at the total body of work, his performance over the course of the season, he's still having a very solid year," general manager Ben Cherington said. "Every player goes through slumps. When your outfielder goes through slumps, those 0-for-5 days, nobody really notices. When it's the closer, it gets more attention. He's going through that, but we're really confident he'll get back on track and start closing out games again. Certainly no one is working harder at it than he is."
The one thing Boston does have is a reliable core of setup men, including Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow.
But no bullpen can function fully unless the closer is getting the job done.
"Right now, I want to make sure there's some level of stability and continuity with that group," said Farrell. "I firmly believe that there's a mental side out there for this group that's important. For them to know where they stack up -- albeit adjustments are willing to be made -- that's still the approach."