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Two Thumbs Down: Beckett, Bailey in Jeopardy for Opening Day?

With Opening Day around the corner, Josh Beckett and Andrew Bailey have suffered thumb injuries on their pitching hands. (Yahoo Sports/AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

With Opening Day almost upon the Boston Red Sox, it appears as if two of their key pitchers may be in jeopardy for the start of the season.

Newly acquired closer Andrew Bailey and no. 2 starter Josh Beckett are both suffering from thumb injuries that could keep them off the mound to begin 2012. Neither injury situation is entirely clear as to how they happened or how severe they might be; according to the latest reports, Bailey may require surgery and Beckett may still make his first start.

The Red Sox aren’t sure how Bailey injured the thumb on his pitching hand, and even media sources contradict one another. According to ESPN, manager Bobby Valentine speculated that it could have been from a collision suffered covering first base during a March 21 appearance against the Pittsburgh Pirates; per Peter Abraham, Valentine claims the injury occurred on March 25 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

With Beckett, the Red Sox seem to be playing coy with his thumb injury. According to ESPNBoston’s Rick Weber, Valentine described the injured thumb as “a little situation” with “a little history to it,” “that he’s taking care of…just for peace of mind.” Apparently that’s just a convoluted way of ruling out a blister.

Bailey, who came over from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Josh Reddick to replace the departed Jonathan Papelbon, traveled to Boston on Monday to be examined further by doctors. The results of his examination were far from good; Bailey may require surgery. He will now go to Cleveland to receive a second opinion from a surgeon. If injury forces Bailey to the disabled list, the Red Sox could retroactively place him on the DL to March 26, the day after he last pitched in a major league. That would make him eligible to pitch by Apr. 10, although Bailey’s recovery time would likely take longer. Mark Melancon would close in his place, having saved 20 games in 24 chances for the 2011 Houston Astros.

Beckett will be evaluated in San Antonio, but it appears his injury will not affect his first start. According to Weber, manager Bobby Valentine Beckett lists Beckett as “probable” and “totally” expects the right-hander to pitch in his scheduled start, Saturday, Apr. 7 in Detroit. If Beckett is unable to take his first turn in the rotation, though, Alfredo Aceves will likely start in his place.

Though the injuries do not appear to be extremely serious, two thumbs down (literally and figuratively, as that would be my evaluation of the situation) is hardly a good start to the upcoming season. On the heels of last season’s collapse (a different two-fingered salute to end the season), the injury bug to two key pitchers is an ominous sign indeed.

About Nick Bohlen - @ndbohlen

Nick is an editor and regular contributor for the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox sections of SoB. (Despite growing up in Vermont, just a short drive from Canada, hockey never really caught on with him.) Follow him on twitter: @ndbohlen

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