Andrew Bailey's first junior season at Wagner University didn't quite have the ending he had hoped it would. The big right-hander came into the 2005 season with hopes of going high in the draft after a breakout sophomore season with the Green & White. However, those plans were put on the shelf when Bailey was sidelined by an elbow injury after just seven starts. He would eventually need Tommy John surgery, which he had on May 5, and that surgery dropped his draft status. Bailey was selected in the 16th round by the Milwaukee Brewers, but he chose to continue his rehabilitation and his career at Wagner.
Less than ten months after the surgery, Bailey surprised nearly everyone by returning to the mound as a red-shirt junior. Although he was limited to only 12 appearances and six starts, he made his presence felt, going 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 2006. He struck out 53 in only 44.1 innings and managed to record a save and two complete games in the same season. Bailey was the third-ranked New York prospect going into the draft, according to Baseball America.
Although Bailey is just a year removed from Tommy John surgery, his fastball velocity has returned to the low to mid-90s. He used that fastball to become Wagner's all-time leader in strikeouts with 237 in 219.1 career innings. He led his team to three consecutive Northeast Conference tournament appearances while at the head of the Wagner staff.
We caught up with Wagner head coach Joe Litterio and Bailey himself to get more insight on this hard-throwing prospect.
Interview with Coach Litterio
OaklandClubhouse: What pitches does Andrew throw?
Coach Litterio: His best pitch is his fastball, which has been clocked as high as 96. It generally sits at 92-94. He also has a slider, change-up and a curveball. He throws both a two-seamer and a four-seamer. The two-seamer has the most movement and he can throw that up and in to right-handers.
OC: Is Andrew 100 percent recovered from the surgery in your mind?
CL: He isn't 100 percent right now. Health-wise, I think he is 100 percent, but his command hasn't quite come back yet all the way. After that type of surgery, your command can suffer a little bit for awhile. He pitched really well for us this year, but it will probably take him a few more months to get his command back to where it was before the surgery.
OC: What do you think the biggest challenge will be for Andrew as he tackles the next level?
CL: Andrew is the type of kid who accepts all challenges, so I think he'll handle the transition well. He will need to improve his secondary pitches because the higher you go, the more you need them to off-set your fastball.
Interview with Andrew Bailey
OaklandClubhouse: What went through your mind when your name was called at the draft?
Andrew Bailey: I was really excited when my name was called, especially since I was just coming off of having surgery and I wasn't sure how that would effect [my draft status]. It was a lot of hard work to come back from the surgery and it really paid off for me and everything just worked out great.
OC: Did you know that the A's were interested in you?
AB: I spoke to [the Oakland A's] area scout out here a few weeks ago, so I knew that they had some interest, but I really didn't consider them to be the team that would be likely [to draft me]. I was actually thinking that it would probably be more the Yankees or the Phillies, but I couldn't be more excited to be part of the A's organization. They are a great organization with a great reputation for developing pitchers, so it is a good opportunity for me.
OC: Have you thought much about the next step?
AB: The area scout called yesterday and said that they would be back in-touch over the next few days. Until then, I'll continue to get my work in and finish up my rehab. Once I sign, I hope to get to the big leagues as quickly as possible and help the team win.
OC: What was the recovery like from the Tommy John surgery?
AB: I had the surgery last May 5. Recovery was really long and tedious. You can't skip a workout or you risk setting yourself back. My coaches and trainers at Wagner really pushed me to keep at it even on the days when it was sore and I was frustrated.
I didn't have any set-backs, even during my throwing program, and my arm has felt great since then. Some people questioned how quickly I came back, but I felt great and it all worked out really well.
OC: You pitched a little out of the bullpen when you first came back from the surgery. Was that part of your recovery or were you looking to add that as part of your pitching resume?
AB: Basically, my coach told me that it was all up to me in terms of when I came back. He said that if I wanted to throw an inning or two here and there, that that would be fine. I was a closer for the team for a little while. I worked my way up from one inning to two innings to three innings and so on.
It is a lot different to go from a throwing session when you throw 80 pitches and rest after 40 then it is to be in a game situation and throw 15 pitches, sit for 20 minutes, and then throw again. It took a little while to get back into the swing of things.
OC: Which secondary pitches are you most comfortable with?
AB: Right now, I am most comfortable with my curveball. Command is still a bit of an issue, but they say that your command doesn't come back completely from the surgery until two years after. Still, my curveball was working really well this year. I was working on a slider [before the surgery], but it's hard to work on a new pitch when you are rehabbing, so I have sort of shelved that for now.