ANAHEIM -- The last time the Red Sox were in Oakland, reliever Andrew Bailey didn't make the trip. Not only was he still on the disabled list at the beginning of July, but his wife was in the process of giving birth to the couple's first child.That means that Friday night, when the Red Sox travel to Oakland for the start of a three-game series, will be Bailey's first chance to return to his old home and pitch against his former team. The trade that brought Bailey to Boston is living proof of what an unpredictable game baseball can be. When the deal was made, the perception was that Bailey would finally get to pitch in the heart of a pennant race while the A's spent a couple of years rebuilding. With 31 games left in the season, the Red Sox are all but playing out the string and the A's are one of the best stories in baseball, holding the top spot in the American League Wild Card standings. "Obviously at the start of the season, our expectations were grand and we haven't fully met them," Bailey said. "And I guess, in a sense, the A's have kind of outperformed their expectations where they kind of had the future in mind and had a couple of rebuilding years and guys getting their feet wet. To [A's GM] Billy Beane's credit and the front office, they've had success right away. It's great that they're able to put that team together and do what they're doing. For us, we have to stay focused and finish the season strong and see where it takes us and worry about the future next year." The standings aren't the only reason this has been a frustrating year for Bailey. He missed the first 116 games following right thumb surgery. When he came off the disabled list on Aug. 14, Bailey initially worked in a setup role. With the demise of Alfredo Aceves, Bailey has been working in his more familiar ninth-inning role of late. However, he still hasn't been told that he's the closer. "Not really," Bailey said. "We're just kind of playing it by ear. The other day I was down and had thrown four out of five and they wanted to give me an off-day. We'll see going forward what happens. I think for a little bit they wanted me to get my feet under me a little bit. We'll see. I'm not too sure yet." Bailey has pitched well since his comeback, posting a 1.69 ERA in seven outings. "I feel good. I don't know when that phone is going to ring, but when it does, I'm ready," Bailey said. "Whatever role they want me to take on is fine by me. Hopefully we get some save opportunities down the road and hopefully I can be a part of that."
Salty taking uncertain role in stride
ANAHEIM -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't start behind the plate for the Red Sox in any of their three games against the Angels this week at Angel Stadium.Though there has been no direct communication with manager Bobby Valentine about his role, Saltalamacchia understands the situation. The Red Sox have fallen out of contention, and the team is prioritizing development. This is a chance for the organization to watch Ryan Lavarnway and determine whether he can be part of the team's catching solution going forward. "I mean, it is what it is. I haven't talked to anybody, so I don't know quite what the situation is.," said Saltalamacchia. "You know, I've been in situations like this before -- not exactly like this -- but where playing time gets cut. You know, I think I've learned from that." In other words, Saltalamacchia -- who served as the designated hitter in Thursday's series finale for the second time in the series -- isn't going to mope about his role. "It's never easy," Saltalamacchia said. "Obviously I want to play and keep contributing and helping the team out. When I'm in there, I'm going to do the best I can." Saltalamacchia will be there for Lavarnway, much like Jason Varitek, Victor Martinez and others were there for him over the years. "You've just got to play," Saltalamacchia said. "The situation is only as bad as you make it. I like Ryan -- he's a good kid. I'm trying to help him out any way I can, just as I was helped out. He's trying to play and make an impression." As for Saltalamacchia's season, he is hitting .231 with 22 homers and 52 RBIs while gaining more invaluable experience behind the plate. "On a personal level, I feel good. I feel like I've put some power numbers up," Saltalamacchia said. "I had a good stretch for two or three months where I was doing really well, and then the past month or so I've really just been trying to get back to that comfortable feeling at the plate and at the same time just trying to do my job behind the plate. I've actually felt really good the past two or three weeks swinging the bat and doing the best I can and just trying to get in a routine and get things done." Valentine appreciates how Saltalamacchia has played this year. "Yes, Salty has played like a champion. Now that we can do the DH routine, I wouldn't mind seeing Lavarnway a little," Valentine said. "I just don't want to see Salty rotting or not being appreciated for his great effort this year. Salty will probably be catching here real soon. Lavarnway is not going to catch every day is, I guess, what that means." Perhaps the one disappointment for the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia is that he hasn't had many chances against left-handed pitchers. Entering action Thursday, Saltalamacchia had taken 294 at-bats against righties, hitting .235 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs. He had just 43 at-bats vs. lefties, hitting .209 with a homer and five RBIs. Though Saltalamacchia has been better from the left side during his career, he got far more chances as a righty last year, hitting five homers in 115 at-bats. "I feel like if I had that chance of playing every day and facing those lefties, there's no doubt about it, the home run numbers would be up a little more because I'd have more opportunities and the average could go up too," Saltalamacchia said. "Last year, it was obviously nowhere near the left side, but I was still putting some home run numbers up and RBIs. You just become more of a complete hitter and player."
Bard ready for action; Aceves' role still evolving
ANAHEIM -- After having a day to get his feet wet in his return to the Red Sox, reliever Daniel Bard was officially recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and activated for Thursday night's finale with the Angels.Manager Bobby Valentine hopes to ease the righty back into action. "Hopefully I'll be able to pitch him when I want to -- not when I have to," said Valentine, who added that he also hopes to bring Bard in for a clean inning. Bard was Boston's primary setup man for the majority of a three-year span, from 2009-11. Obviously the priority now is to help the righty get his confidence back after a year in which he has battled command in the Majors and Minors. "We have other guys right now tonight who are slated to get the ball in one-run games in the eighth inning," said Valentine. "But that doesn't mean it's not going to be a tie game in extra innings [when Bard pitches]." The addition of Bard also opens up options for Alfredo Aceves, who closed for most of the year but has struggled mightily in that role of late. Back in Spring Training, it was the preference of Aceves to start. Valentine indicated the club might stretch out the righty for the last few weeks of the season, though it's unclear if he will be able to get a start. "He's one of 25 guys on the team and we're trying to get everyone into a place where the opportunity they're given fits their needs and our needs," Valentine said. "It doesn't always work out." Asked if Aceves could start before the season ends, Valentine said, "I don't know. It seems like we have a lot of starters right now. But maybe."