NEW YORK — By the time the torn ligament in his right thumb had healed and Andrew Bailey joined the Red Sox last season, the team was 11 games out of first place and on the verge of falling apart.
Bailey appeared in 19 games and it’s fair to say none were particularly compelling.
But that was not the case on Monday when he took the mound in the seventh inning. The Yankees, down 5-2 against the Red Sox, had runners on first and second with two outs and cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis at the plate.
Red Sox manager John Farrell was intending to save Bailey for the eighth inning. But this was the point where the game would be won or lost.
Bailey got ahead of Youkilis 0-and-2 with a fastball that he took and a curveball he missed. After Bailey threw a curve down and away, he came back with two 95-m.p.h. fastballs.
Youkilis fouled off the first and swung through the second. The threat was over and the Red Sox went on to an 8-2 victory.
“Throw the ball as hard as you can,” Bailey said when asked his approach for Youkilis. “That’s all I do anyway. We know him pretty well. Couple of curveballs, let him swing over it and then elevate it. I was able to execute that that.”
For Bailey, a former closer, it felt good to be in a tight spot again.
“All it changes is the inning you’re throwing in. For me, it was nice to start this year off a lot better personally than it was last year,” he said.
Farrell took Bailey out for the eighth inning, going to Junichi Tazawa.
“With a closer one-inning mentality, didn’t want him to come back out which would be, I think, foreign for him,” Farrell said. “He came in, did his job, and shut off that seventh inning.”
The Red Sox bullpen dominated the Yankees over four innings.
“It’s a great group. Power arms and closer-type stuff,” said closer Joel Hanrahan, who worked the ninth in a non-save situation. “It’s not always going to be that perfect. But we’re going to be tough.”
Koji Uehara had the best inning, getting three popups in the sixth on five pitches, all strikes.
“I need nice,” he said in English, pretending his arm hurt.
• The clean-shaven look is new for Youkilis, who was 1 for 4 in his Yankees debut. And, as he pointed out before facing the Red Sox for the first time in pinstripes, so were many of the faces in Boston’s clubhouse.
So the Opening Day reunion with the team he helped win two World Series was less emotional and more businesslike.
“I think it’s just different,” said Youkilis, who signed a one-year deal with the Yankees after becoming a free agent. “There’s a lot of new guys on the Boston Red Sox, but there’ll be a few guys there that I played with. It’s cool.
“So it’s just another game. You’ve got to treat it like it’s another game, and just like any other team. You’ve just got to try to stay even keeled and just treat it like another game because you’ve got 162 games to go.
While he said there are still fans in New York that will hate him and fans in Boston that will love him — “I call that society,” Youkilis said — he’s embracing being a Yankee while still holding on to the contributions he made in Boston.
“I can’t negate my history,” Youkilis said. “I’ll always be a Red Sox. I’ll always be a White Sox and I’ll always be a Yankee now. We are who we are and every team we play for is who we are and that defines us. When you step in and play for these teams you’ve got to have a lot of heart and you’ve got to take in all the traditions. I did it with the Red Sox, I did it with the White Sox now I’m doing it with the Yankees and I’m going to enjoy it.”
• David Ortiz jogged to the third base line when he was introduced before the game. It’s a sign of things to come for the injured designated hitter. “I’m feeling really good,” said Ortiz, who did not play in spring training because of an injured right Achilles’ tendon. “I ran hard today with [team medical officials] watching. I’m going to do that a couple of more days, then I’m going to Florida.”
Ortiz will stay with the Sox through Thursday then return to Fort Myers. He hopes to start playing in extended spring training games at that point. He thinks he can be ready in 10 games, the last few with Triple A Pawtucket.
“I’m at the point right now that it’s more stable than what it used to be,” Ortiz said. “That’s good, seems like we’re moving forward.”
Ortiz missed his first Opening Day since 2002, when Jeremy Giambi was the choice to DH.
“Opening Day’s the one time that you want to be good to go, and be ready for the season, definitely. It’s just a weird feeling,” Ortiz said.
• Dustin Pedroia, who ended last season with a broken finger on each hand and a torn muscle in his right thumb, dove headfirst into first base in the ninth with the Sox up by six runs. He spent some time with the trainers and a team doctor after the game but claimed he was OK. Pedroia, who was 2 for 6, has hit safely in seven straight Opening Days.
• Jackie Bradley Jr. was the first major league player to walk three times in his debut since Danny Ardoin of the Twins in 2000. He also was the first Red Sox player to debut on Opening Day against the Yankees since Tony Conigliaro in 1964. Bradley was the first Sox player to reach base in his first major league player appearance on Opening Day since Joe Lahoud in 1968.
• The Sox are 55-57-1 on Opening Day … The Sox snapped an eight-game losing streak dating to last season and a five-game streak against the Yankees.
• Jon Lester is the first lefthander to start and win on Opening Day for the Red Sox since Gary Peters in 1970, also against the Yankees … Derek Jeter, who was at the team facility in Florida, missed his first Opening Day for the Yankees since 2001.