Bailey believes elbow injury is behind him
A's closer loses 12-15 pounds this offseason while rehabbing
PHOENIX -- A handful of A's pitchers reported to camp Tuesday in a noticeably trimmed-down fashion, a scene that had manager Bob Geren raving about his club's readiness for a season with an overload of expectations.
Much of that focus rested on Andrew Bailey, who admittedly lost between 12 to 15 pounds this winter while rehabbing from a September elbow procedure.
"I wouldn't say it was so much about losing weight," he joked, "just restructuring weight."
Either way, Bailey's 6-foot-3 frame appears primed for a big league mound again. The A's closer, embarking on his third big league season, threw his first bullpen session on Monday in a successful manner, tallying 20 fastballs along the way.
"I think the elbow issue is, in my mind, behind me," Bailey said. "It's just kind of maintenance right now, trying to keep up on it and doing everything I need to do to keep it healthy."
Bailey will attempt to take part in bullpen sessions every three days, continually mixing in a handful of offspeed pitches and staying on a schedule solely dependent on how he feels. He may not immediately make it into spring games, but the goal, he said, is to have 8 to 10 appearances under his belt by the beginning of April.
"I'm on track for Opening Day," he said. "In my mind, I'll be ready. As I continue throwing the first couple of bullpens, everything will kind of pan out after that. I'll get in enough games to where I'll be fine."
Bailey's late-season elbow injury marked his second time being sidelined in 2010, as he missed nearly a month while stationed on the disabled list with a right intercostal strain beginning in late July. Both setbacks meant he was not afforded the chance to match or surpass his save total of 26 from his rookie season. Yet, Bailey still managed to compile a 1.47 ERA, 25 saves and a 0.96 WHIP in 47 appearances while earning his second straight All-Star nod.
Those numbers could see a bigger boost this season as a result of an added 15 degrees of elbow extension Bailey gained after surgery, which included the removal of three spurs and three chips. He was out of commission for a full eight weeks and then embarked on what's been a rather smooth rehab process -- but only after his November wedding to wife Amanda.
"During the season, I'm the guy that puts on weight," he said. "After seeing some of the wedding pictures, I was like, 'All right, time to start right now.'"
"Any time any athlete, in any sport, is in tip-top shape is going to help," Geren said. "Can that help him improve the way he pitches? He can't really improve much more than he already is. He's about as good as they get. But physically, anytime you shed a couple pounds, I'm sure you feel better."
Bailey will presumably be joined in the bullpen by fellow right-handers Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and, if healthy, Joey Devine, along with lefties Brian Fuentes and Craig Breslow. Familiar faces Jerry Blevins, Josh Outman and Rich Harden are among candidates who could join that crowd.
"If we're all healthy, that's the best bullpen in the league by far," Devine said.
That very mindset is shared by Bailey, who relishes the thought of maintaining game-ending duties while sharing a bullpen with Fuentes, a respected veteran closer who is expected to primarily be used as a left-handed setup option.
"Fuentes has been around for a while and has a lot of playoff experience," Bailey said. "That's where we want to be. I'm looking to learn from him.
"The excitement around this team, you can see it on everyone's face already. It'll be a fun year for sure. I'm excited. It'll be awesome."