7/13/2013 10:38 P.M. ET
Thornton excited to join first-place ballclub
By Jeff Kirshman / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Matt Thornton hasn't stopped smiling since he woke up at 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday in a Philadelphia hotel room in order to catch a cross-country flight to join his new ballclub on the West Coast.
"They're a first-place team," Thornton said. "It's all about winning in this game. That's why I prepare the way I do in the offseason, to win ballgames."
Thornton joins a Red Sox club in need of additional southpaws after the team lost reliever Andrew Miller to season-ending foot surgery a week ago, particularly with 10 games against American League East opponents on the schedule following the All-Star break.
"It was clear that when Andrew went down that the desire to strike early, and the sense of urgency became even greater," manager John Farrell said. "I don't know if it was schedule-driven. It was our current situation-driven and trying to fortify the group that we have here as best as possible if it made sense, and Thornton was a guy we were able to acquire and fill at least one of those needs."
Thornton, 36, was 0-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 40 appearances this season with Chicago. He's recorded 18 holds this season, which is tied for fourth most among all AL relievers.
The veteran was of value to the White Sox primarily against left-handed hitters, who batted .173 against Thornton compared to right-handers, who hit .320, though there's been less of a differential over the course of his 10-year career. The White Sox in turn used him more as a specialist than as a typical setup man, and Farrell has said he'll use him similarly.
"Whatever they need from me," Thornton said. "I talked to John a little bit when I first got here. I came out on the field and he said that's pretty much what's going to happen."
"I am 36 years old going on 37 later this year. It's about adjustments. That's what this game's all about, making adjustments throughout your career."
Helping ease the transition is Thornton's familiarity with pitching coach Juan Nieves, who spent five years as Chicago's bullpen coach. His lone All-Star appearance in 2010 came under Nieves.
"He's a good friend of mine," Thornton said. "I love the guy to death and I look forward to working with him again."
Thornton's experience with the AL should also prove fortuitous. Thornton displayed impressive recall of past outings against the AL East -- and even the Red Sox themselves.
"Single to [Carl] Crawford, a ground ball to [Dustin] Pedroia and a single to [Adrian] Gonzalez last year," said Thornton.
"One of the things I was worried about was if it'd be a National League team," Thornton said of the rumors leading up to the move. "I really don't know a lot of the guys over there. Staying in the league that I know, I've faced most lefties in the league 10, 12, 15 times."
Thornton is also familiar with Fenway Park, which he commended for its history and fanbase. He's particularly looking forward from playing as a member of the home team.
"That is definitely a perk," Thornton said. "I've seen the weight room and that's about it. The visiting side isn't exactly team friendly."
After rough June, Bailey reverting to form in July
OAKLAND -- It appears that Andrew Bailey has returned to form since losing the closer's role he's held for much of the season.
The right-hander has scattered two hits, walked one and struck out seven in four scoreless outings this month after going 2-1 with a 10.13 ERA last month, during which time he blew four of six save opportunities, allowed 12 hits, issued seven free passes and fanned just eight in 10 appearances over eight innings.
"It's just the ups and downs of baseball," Bailey said. "I'm off to a good start, but I didn't doubt that I would continue to give up runs every single outing. You just keep on working and keep on grinding.
"A couple weeks ago, it just seemed like every time they got a hit, it was a home run. There's a difference between squaring a ball up or finding a hole, and what it comes down to is execution. Whether you're a pitcher or a hitter, you're going to have highs and lows. You can't get too low with the lows and too high with the highs.
"Guys can go 0-for-20, relievers can have a bad week or two. It's a game. You go out there and try your best every single time, but you got to stay true to who you are and trust your stuff. I'm not going to go out there and have a zero for the year, that's just not going to happen."
Koji Uehara has earned a Major League-leading seven saves since June 26 in place of Bailey as closer. Uehara fanned all three batters he faced in the ninth inning of Friday's 4-2 win over the A's to earn his eighth save of the season, and he owns a 0.56 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 17 outings since June 10.
The chance to reclaim the closer's role will rely on more than just how Bailey pitches in the second half of the season, though a second effective option will surely provide flexibility for manager John Farrell.
"Every reliever wants to be the closer. It doesn't matter who you are," Bailey said. "I'd love to be the closer, but right now Koji's doing a fantastic job. Whatever the manager sees fit, I want to go to the playoffs and win the World Series, and whatever role I fit in is fine by me."
Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.