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03-05-2006, 05:00 AM

Bailey gets taste of big leagues

TAMPA, Fla. — Homer Bailey’s first taste of big-league pitching began like stale bread and finished like apple pie a la mode Friday when he faced the Minnesota Twins.

He walked the first two batters he faced, “on nine pitches,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “I’m sure he had no idea who Ruben Sierra is and how hard it is to walk him, but he walked him on five pitches.”

At that point, bullpen coach Tom Hume ran to the mound to soothe nerves. “And after that he showed some mound presence,” Narron added. “That was a great experience for him. Remember, he is only 19 years old.”

Bailey pitched two innings and gave up no runs and one hit.

Drafted No. 1 in 2004, Bailey is the only Reds minor-leaguer listed among Baseball America’s Top 75 prospects, and he is 36th. He was 8-4 with a 4.43 earned-run average at Class A Dayton last season and is likely to leap to Class AA Chattanooga to start this season.

Media darling

When Tuffy Rhodes walked into the visitor’s clubhouse at Legends Field Saturday, five Japanese writers were awaiting the man who played 10 years in Japan.

Rhodes politely asked them in fluent Japanese to meet him outside, where a dozen Japanese photographers came into focus.

“The writers are going to ask me 20 questions and 12 will be about Hideki Matsui,” he said, referring to the New York Yankees outfielder.

Overhearing Rhodes, Reds outfielder Adam Dunn said with a smile, “Just tell them he stinks, he is overrated and he is overpaid. That’ll get rid of them.”

One-handed wonder?

Speaking of Adam Dunn, he says Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge must have been hallucinating or not concentrating Friday. After Dunn hit a long home run, Inge was still amazed after the game.

“I saw him swing, and when he connected, he only had one hand on the bat,” Inge said. “He hit that ball that far with one hand.”

When Dunn was told that Saturday, he said, “I thought I put a good swing on it, a good two-handed swing. One hand? No way. I was a little ahead on the swing, that’s all.”

Pitcher Milton scratched again

Eric Milton will miss his second straight scheduled start today against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays due to his strained left calf, but he threw on the side Saturday in Sarasota, Fla.

“He threw about eight minutes and said he felt stiffness but felt no pain,” trainer Mark Mann said.

Whether Milton can pitch soon depends on how he comes out of Saturday’s session.

Pitcher Matt Belisle has missed two days because of flu-like symptoms but threw lightly in the bullpen Saturday and told Mann, “I didn’t feel the greatest, but I got through it.”

Living Tommy John

Former pitcher Tommy John is in the Yankees camp as a guest instructor — yes, THAT Tommy John, the guy for whom the elbow transplant surgery is named. He was the first to have it done.

“The procedure is listed in official medical dictionaries as Tommy John surgery,” he said. “Did I patent my name? No, but I wish I had. I haven’t received a penny from it.”

Mr. Incognito

Ryan Freel forgot his game jersey Saturday. Ryan Freel always forgets his game jersey.

“Every road trip,” he said. “They gave me three so I could put one in my travel bag, and I still forgot it.”

He wore a spare jersey with no name or number on it during batting practice and infield. Somebody kiddingly suggested he was hiding from the Tampa police, after his off-season alcohol-related incident here, but that has been adjudicated to Freel’s satisfaction.

Reds trainer Mark Mann, who drove to the game later, spared Freel the embarrassment of playing that way in the game by bringing his jersey.