A's Bailey reveling in rapid rise as All-Star
Rookie reliever making name for himself among peers
ST. LOUIS -- Forgive the autograph seekers surrounding the hotel at which the 2009 All-Stars are staying in advance of Tuesday's Midsummer Classic for allowing Andrew Bailey to roam unbothered.
Bailey, a right-handed rookie for the A's, isn't exactly a household name. So while All-Star teammates such as Tim Wakefield had a hard time hailing a cab without being beseeched to sign a variety of cards and posters, Bailey went virtually unnoticed.
Soon enough, people will know all about his rapid ascension from struggling Minor League starter to Major League closer. Bailey, 25, has a 1.92 ERA and 10 saves in his first full season as a professional reliever.
For now, though, he'll have to settle for the respect of those who matter most to baseball players: their peers.
"Oh, he's special," said former A's first baseman Carlos Pena, now an All-Star with the Rays. "He throws hard -- very hard -- and has incredible presence on the mound. He has excellent command for someone who throws that hard, and his secondary pitches are very good, too.
"This will not be the first time Andrew Bailey is at an All-Star Game. That would be very surprising if he doesn't make it back here."
Another former Athletic, Astros shortstop and National League All-Star Miguel Tejada, has never faced Bailey. But he knows players who have, and he said they were impressed.
"He's a good one," Tejada said Monday during the annual All-Star media scrum. "I've seen him pitch, and I like him. He's an All-Star, so a lot of people like him."
Including American League manager Joe Maddon, who tabbed Bailey as a member of his bullpen.
"Aside from being a tremendous pitcher and competitor," Maddon said, "he's a great story."
Moved to the Double-A Midland bullpen after the Texas League All-Star break last year, Bailey posted a 0.92 ERA in the second half, starred in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, allowed one run in 12 appearances in his first trip to Spring Training, made the team and worked his way into the ninth-inning role with a string of strong outings in the season's first six weeks.
That's a lot to absorb in 12 months, and the All-Star Game brings more -- starting with Monday's Home Run Derby. With his girlfriend, sister and parents in the stands, as well as a pack of friends from his native New Jersey, Bailey will be on the field, enjoying a perspective far different than what he experienced last summer when Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton was putting on a show at Yankee Stadium.
"Last year we were playing a game in Midland during the Derby, and me and a couple of relievers snuck into the clubhouse to watch as much as we could on TV," Bailey said. "We probably missed and inning or two of the game because we wanted to see Hamilton's round, and it seemed like that one round never ended.
"To know that I won't miss anything this year -- I'm not going to miss a second of anything they have us do -- is pretty incredible. It's crazy. It's awesome."
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.