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It’s a big step for Bailey as he faces hitters

Reliever says session was 'encouraging'

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 26, 2012
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ARLINGTON, Texas — It was just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday when Andrew Bailey took the mound at Rangers Ballpark. About 10 people were on hand to watch him pitch, all of them Red Sox coaches and staff members.

After 20 warm-up pitches, Bailey threw 23 pitches to teammates Daniel Nava and Pedro Ciriaco over what amounted to five plate appearances. He had a strikeout, a walk, and gave up a hit.

Bailey lost control of some fastballs, but his velocity was good and his breaking pitches had their usual movement.

“To me, he looked pretty good,” Nava said.

For Bailey, it was an important day. He had not faced hitters since spring training because of a torn ligament in his right thumb that required surgery. After four months of rehabilitation, he was finally in a competitive situation.

“Encouraging,” Bailey said. “I felt great. It was nice to see hitters in the box. I’m just anxious to get back out there and help this team win.”

The next step will be another live batting practice session at the team facility in Fort Myers, Fla., on Saturday. If that goes well, Bailey would start a rehab assignment early next week.

“We’re just going to take it step at a time,” he said. “Today went great.”

Bailey threw all four of his pitches and pitched at full effort. His thumb has fully healed and he’s over the forearm soreness that delayed his return last month.

“Now I feel good. That little hiccup was unfortunate and something I’ve dealt with in the past,” Bailey said. “The thumb feels great, the forearm feels great, and now it’s just a matter of getting back with hitters in the box in game situations. Hopefully, soon be back with the team.”

Bailey was the most significant offseason acquisition for the Sox, the two-time All-Star obtained from Oakland Dec. 28. The idea was that Bailey would replace Jonathan Papelbon as the closer. That job instead fell to Alfredo Aceves when Bailey collided with a runner while covering first base in spring training and was injured.

Bailey thinks he will need six or seven innings in the minors before he can be activated. That is likely to include pitching on back-to-back days. That would make him available sometime in August.

Crawford returns to left

Manager Bobby Valentine took left fielder Carl Crawford out of Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning out of fear that he would fully tear the damaged ligament in his left elbow making a throw in a tight game.

Crawford was back in left Wednesday night. Which begged the question: Why not use Crawford as the designated hitter?

“I don’t think that it’s time. We’ve got to get Carl playing and into the swing of things,” Valentine said. “It’s not like there wasn’t a thought of it. Thought and negated.”

Valentine said he’s “playing it by ear” when it comes to Crawford.

“This is all a learning experience. We’ll learn as we go,” he said. “Just trying to do the smart thing. Putting people in a position to succeed.”

Atchison ready for rehab

Scott Atchison, out since July 14 with tightness in his forearm, threw about 30 pitches in the bullpen and will join Triple A Pawtucket Friday on a rehab assignment. He is lined up to pitch an inning.

Atchison has been one of the team’s more reliable relievers. He has a 1.76 earned average and a 1.000 WHIP over 46 innings and 37 appearances.

“I felt sharp. I didn’t feel any pain,” Atchison said. “I don’t foresee any problems.”

Atchison, who is eligible to return Sunday, believes he would need only one appearance in the minors before getting back on the roster.

“Make sure I’m locked in, have a good one and be ready to go,” he said.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose latest injury is a sore trapezius, threw in the bullpen. There is no timetable for him going on a rehab assignment. Lefthander Rich Hill, on the disabled list with a strained elbow, will throw off the mound Friday in New York. That will be the first time since he was injured.

Ortiz making progress

Designated hitter David Ortiz is set to rejoin the team Friday. He stayed back in Boston to get treatment on his strained right Achilles’. Ortiz is out of the walking boot and could be ready to start swinging a bat this weekend.

Yankees set rotation

The Yankees will pitch Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and Hiroki Kuroda against Aaron Cook, Jon Lester, and Felix Doubront this weekend. Valentine said there was only brief consideration of pitching Clay Buchholz on regular rest Sunday . . . Tuesday’s 2-1 victory by the Sox marked the first time the visiting team won at Rangers Ballpark scoring two runs or fewer since the Angels won, 2-0, Sept. 19, 2009 . . . Two Pawtucket righthanders, Kevin Duckworth and Doug Mathis, left the organization to sign with teams in Japan . . . Nelson Figueroa, signed to a minor league deal earlier this week, allowed two runs over five innings to get a victory for Pawtucket in Indianapolis. Jose De La Torre, obtained from Cleveland Tuesday, went an inning for the save . . . The Sox are 1-4 against Texas this season and 11-23 over the last four seasons . . . Single A Salem’s Michael Almanzar got hits in his first three at-bats Wednesday, giving him a streak of reaching base 16 consecutive times. He then popped to second base. The minor league record is unknown, but Ted Williams set the major league record when he reached 16 straight times in 1957. The 21-year-old Almanzar was 12 for 12 with three walks and a hit by pitch during the streak.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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