When Bobby Valentine was named the 45th manager of the Boston Red Sox, the club's pitching staff was in disarray. Since then, general manager Ben Cherington has done a solid job building depth in the starting rotation, but mostly in the bullpen.
"The deals were in the hands of Ben and his baseball department and I think they've done a heck of a job of being patient, of being diligent, knowing what they want and going after it," Valentine said. "These two guys begin to fill a very big void that it seemed like we had after (Jonathan) Papelbon left and (Daniel) Bard was given an opportunity to go into the starting staff, along with (Alfredo) Aceves, and all of a sudden we went from the cupboard being bare to a cupboard that's plentiful, and we're all excited about."
Valentine and Bailey know each other well off the field as both reside in Connecticut.
Bailey and former A's teammate Craig Breslow, who is a native of Connecticut, formed the Strike 3 Foundation, which raises money for pediatric cancer research, and Valentine was the emcee for its annual event the past two years.
"I see him off the field act the way you would want a major leaguer, or for that matter a son or father to act," Valentine said. "He really is an upstanding young man and when I watched him on video, or I watched him on television during his career, I've been extremely impressed with his competitiveness and his ability to get both right- and left-handed hitters out. Hopefully, like he said, he's going to be healthy as this year comes on, and if he is, he's going to be a big plus to the Boston Red Sox."
With the presence of both Bailey and Melancon, it gives the Red Sox an opportunity to move Bard into a starter's role, at least to begin spring training and see what happens from there. It's not a guarantee that Bard will end up in the rotation.
"The first I heard of this was in my first interview with Ben when we went through the roster and Ben was telling me some of the things he knew about the players, and I mentioned some of the things I thought about the players," Valentine said.
"From then, I got to talk with Daniel and some others in the organization, and Daniel is up for anything that's going to help the team and that's a real great thing for any player to say, but I think he says it with conviction. Yet, he also said, if that starting place is available, he'd like to have the opportunity to win the spot if all other things are equal. I said there's nothing wrong with coming to spring training, being mentally and physically ready to pitch multiple innings. In fact, if that doesn't work out, be ready for plan 1A and that would be where you've been the last couple of years. He was fine with that and so am I."
Another key component in the rotation is Clay Buchholz. The right-hander missed the majority of last season with a stress fracture in his lower back. If the Red Sox had reached the postseason, there was a strong possibility he would have been able to return in some role, likely out of the bullpen.
It was probably a good thing for Buchholz that he was able to continue his rehab, but he's telling Valentine he's ready to go.
"We are sure from his lips and our doctors' examinations that he's 100 percent healthy," Valentine said. "But he has not been time tested off the mound. He hasn't gone through the rigors of spring training, nor of a major league season. He's going to be watched closely, not only at the beginning, but at the end of 2012. Right now he says he feels great and I hope to get a chance to see him this weekend.
"I'm not asking him to do any pushups or situps or anything, but I'll be able to look into his eye and when he tells me he feels great I'll know that he's telling the truth. Then we'll take it one step at a time. I don't think he's a guaranteed 200-innings guy right now, but it sure would be nice if he delivered that."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.