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A Most Unlikely Fantasy Baseball All-Star

Andrew Bailey is an all-star.Andrew Bailey & Kurt Suzuki

Forgive yourself if you didn’t have Bailey on your 2009 Sleepers List for your fantasy baseball draft.

Bailey was a long-shot to earn a spot in the Oakland A’s bullpen this Spring.  In fact, Bailey had never pitched beyond Double-A.

And, when he did pitch at Double-A Midland in the Texas League last year, he wasn’t very good.  Through June 21, Bailey was 0-8 with a 6.75  ERA in his last 14 starts at the all-star break.

That’s when life changed for the New Jersey native.  Bailey was moved to the bullpen and learned to throw a cutter from pitching coach Gil Patterson.  In his next 22 appearances, he went 4-1 with a 0.97 ERA.

In the majors, Bailey now relies on the cutter and uses it one to two times per batter.  His cutter comes in at 88 – 91 MPH and his fastball tops out at 95.

Wehn Bailey graduated from high school, he received one offer to play in college–from Andrew Bailey, fantasy baseball all-starWagner College in Staten Island.  Not exactly the kind of school you see in Omaha very often.  He had led his Haddon Heights (NJ) Legion team to a state championship, but he’d never been named an all-star before–not even in Little League.

That is, until Rays’ manager Joe Maddon chose the 25-year-old as Oakland’s representative in the all star game.  Catcher Kurt Suzuki was expected to get the nod, but Maddon chose the relief pitcher due to the innovative catcher re-entry rule which is permitted in the all-star game.

Bailey is certainly deserving.  Thus far, he is 4-1 with 9 saves and a 2.03 ERA for the A’s.  His 57 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched tops the American League for a relief pitcher and is second in the MLB, only behing Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers.

Bailey does have 4 blown saves, but 2 of those came in the eighth inning when he inherited runners on base.  A’s manager Bob Geren is not afraid to use Bailey for more than one inning and has confidence in the rookie to throw him into the ninth inning fire, even at the expense of more experienced relievers like Brad Ziegler.  Ziegler had 11 saves last year and has 6 this year.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster,” said Bailey on Thursday in a telephone interview from St. Petersburg, Fla., where Oakland is playing Tampa Bay. “Everything has happened so fast. From my major-league debut, to my first win and then first save.”

As for Andrew Bailey’s fantasy baseball status, if he’s still available in your league, and you have a chance to move up in the saves category, it would seem like Andrew Bailey is the logical choice.  Bailey is going to continue to get save opportunities out of the Oakland bullpen.

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