Bailey's Season Like A Dream

OAKLAND - One year ago, Andrew Bailey was in Double-A, making the transition from struggling starter to late-inning reliever. Now, he is 11th in the American League in saves and an AL All-Star. We caught-up with Bailey on Monday at the Coliseum to get his thoughts on his first big league season, his All-Star game nod and more...

When Andrew Bailey arrived in Phoenix for his first big league spring training, he was just looking to make an impression. Instead, he earned a major league job and soon after that, he was the newest closer for the Oakland A's.

Despite not saving a game as a minor leaguer, Bailey has taken extremely well to the role of closer in the big leagues. He is currently 11th in the American League in saves with 14 and boasts a 2.21 ERA in 61 innings. Bailey ranks first among major league rookies in saves, ERA and strike-outs. He is currently holding batters to a .183 average and he sports a sparkling 1.02 WHIP. Bailey is averaging more than three strike-outs to every walk and more than a strike-out per inning.

Bailey's efforts were acknowledged by his peers this July when he was named to the American League All-Star team. He was the only rookie invited to the Mid-Season Classic.

On Monday, we caught-up with Bailey...

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on an outstanding rookie year. I'm sure that this season has been a whirlwind from being a non-roster invitee in spring training to now.

Andrew Bailey: Yeah, it's been a fun and exciting season for me. It's kind of been one thing after another. Going into spring training, I wanted to make an impression and hopefully stay around for a few weeks. A couple of things went my way and here I am. I made the team and was able to take advantage of some opportunities that were thrown at me.

OC: Closing is relatively new for you still. What it is like for you to come into the 9th inning with the game on the line?

AB: Yeah, it's hard to put into words how it feels. You feed off of the crowd, no matter what stadium you are in, whether they are for you or against you. It gets loud. It's crazy running in from the bullpen and knowing that this is it, this is the last inning. You've got to shut the door and get the team the win. It's exciting. It's hard to put into words how it feels, but it is definitely one of the greatest adrenaline rushes of your life.

OC: You are an East Coast guy and last week you got a couple of big saves at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. I know that this Yankee Stadium is new, but what was it like to get saves in parks that you grew up so near?

AB: I had been to Yankee Stadium a few times growing up. I was more of a Phillies fan growing up down south [New Jersey], but in college I went to Yankee Stadium a couple of times and to go back there and see all of my college friends and guys that I played against at the high school and college level, it was really awesome. When you are running into Yankee Stadium to get the save opportunity, the best closer in the game is sitting in the other ‘pen, so that's pretty cool. It's an experience you'll never forget.

Going into Boston, Fenway Park is so old and there is a lot of history there. Great city, great fans. You hear how crazy they get when Jonathan Papelbon is running out to the "Shipping off to Boston" song and you are trying to feed off of their energy. It's still my first year and I'm trying to tell everyone that I don't really care [what his role is], I just want to win. I don't really care if I am the closer or not. If I throw the sixth, seventh, eighth inning, it is fine with me. Bob [Geren, A's manager] just wants me to throw the ninth, which is fine by me, but it's just awesome being here. I think maybe at some point during the off-season I'll actually sit back and realize ‘wow, I'm here and doing what I am doing.'

OC: Did you have a chance to talk to Mariano Rivera at the All-Star game about your cutter or in general closing?

AB: I talked a little bit with Papelbon and [Joe] Nathan and those guys about closing. I talked to Mariano a little bit, but I didn't really ask him too many questions about the cutter. I figured that we were there to enjoy the experience of the All-Star game. Hopefully someday down the road I'll be able to talk with him about that pitch specifically. For the most part, down in the bullpen, I just wanted to see how they prepared themselves for the game and the conversations that they had with each other. I thought it was pretty cool just to add a line or two into the conversation when you are sitting in the bullpen with those guys.

OC: When you got the call that you had been named to that team, what was that like?

AB: We were in Cleveland. I found out about 12:30 and our game was at 1:05. Bob Geren came in and said, ‘we have an All-Star representative and it is Andrew Bailey.' I was shocked. I knew I had a chance maybe, but to actually make the team and be a part of that roster and represent the A's was a huge honor for me. It's definitely one of the highlights of my whole baseball career even dating back to Little League. I know that it is an individual honor, but I just thought it was great to represent the A's and my teammates there.

OC: Seems like you are throwing a little harder this season. When I saw you pitch last [before this year], you were a starter. Do you think the switch to relieving is the reason for the increase, or have you made mechanical adjustments that have allowed you to add a few miles per hour?

AB: I think it is being able to go out there and just throw one or two innings. I know that you are up every day and your velocity fluctuates, but basically it has been consistently higher than it has ever been. I think maybe, finally, after three or four years coming off of the Tommy John surgery, that finally kicked back into a different level.

It's also the adrenaline that is flowing no matter what inning you are coming in. Earlier in the year, when I was throwing in the middle innings or we were losing by 10 – I was the ‘down by 10, up by 10' guy – but regardless you are in the big leagues and your adrenaline is pumping every time that you are on the mound. I think that has something to do with it.

OC: How is your knee?

AB: It's okay. It's good. I got another MRI today [Monday]. I don't have the results yet, but it feels okay. Every once in awhile it balloons up, but as long as I am able to pitch on it, they said that is fine. As long as there is nothing serious going on in there, I'm fine to pitch. They are keeping an eye on it, but other than that, whatever I have to take care of, I'll take care of during the off-season.

OC: Is it an irritation of the knee sort of thing?

AB: I guess so. They say that there is just a little rough cartilage under the kneecap. Every once in awhile, I'll make a play in the field or during BP and I tweak it. I try to stay off of my feet when I can, but the other night in Boston I had to field a bunt and that irritated it a little bit. It was swollen for a few days, but as long as I can handle the pain and play on it, I will be fine.

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