Saves have been rare for Sox

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Red Sox bullpen has just 11 saves this season entering Wednesday's game against Tampa Bay. Only Cleveland with nine has fewer saves in the American League.

Four teams have blown more saves than the Sox have saved games: the Cubs (13), Dodgers (13), Diamondbacks (13) and Orioles (12).

The Yankees and Orioles, meanwhile, have more than twice as many saves as the Sox, with 25 apiece. Three pitchers -- Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, Jim Johnson of the Orioles and Jason Grilli of the Pirates -- have more than twice as many, with 23 apiece. Andrew Bailey, meanwhile, leads the Sox with six.

So, is that a reflection of the precarious state of the Sox closer situation, given that Joel Hanrahan is lost for the season after Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and Bailey has only one save in 22 games since being reinstated off the disabled list May 20 after missing 19 games with a strained right biceps?

In a word, no.

Bailey has had just one other chance in that stretch to save a game, which came Monday night here, when he entered in the 10th inning with the Sox ahead 8-6, gave up a home run to Jose Lobaton to open the inning, then walked in the tying run. That outing was only the seventh time Bailey has pitched since coming off the DL, although it was the fourth time in the past six games, and came the day after he'd thrown 24 pitches in a nonsave situation against the Angels.

Bailey wasn't especially sharp Sunday, either, throwing only 14 of 24 pitches for strikes; on Monday, when he walked three, it was 17 of 32. But while he blew the save, Bailey did a remarkable job of avoiding defeat, as he induced Rays slugger Evan Longoria to hit into a double play, and second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a terrific play on Sam Fuld's drag bunt to end the inning.

"Lost in that game was how good a job Bailey did," Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "OK, it was rough, giving up the home run, then walking in the tying run and now you're facing Evan Longoria. A Lot of people would cash that in. All he has to do is a sacrifice fly, bloop a ball in. Instead, he gets a double play and gets out of it.

"This team is relentless, man. That's what's really cool."

It might well be that the back end of the bullpen could prove vulnerable; the Sox, after all, made the move to replace Bailey as closer last winter when they traded for Hanrahan. The jury probably will remain out until Bailey runs off a string of saves for the Sox. But the low numbers so far this season are no reflection on his effectiveness.

Overall, the Sox have converted 11 of 19 save opportunities, a 58 percent success rate.