Sarasota likely spot for Bailey
By Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter
Zoom JIM OSBORN/The Post
Spring training hasn't really been boring for teenage pitcher Homer Bailey, who has seen higher-level hitters.
• Pitcher's transition is tricky
DUNEDIN, Fla. - The temptation is there. That much, Jerry Narron won't bother to deny.
Musing before Friday's game about which pitcher might fill the void in the starting rotation if Paul Wilson isn't ready, Narron had this to say:
"It'll be the guy we think can get the most people out and give us the best chance to win," he said.
All indications are the job will go to Michael Gosling or Justin Germano. But at times this spring, Homer Bailey has looked far more dominant than either of them. Could the 19-year-old be the answer for 2006?
"It would be interesting to see if he had 35 starts in the major leagues this year, see what he would do," Narron admitted.
But it won't happen. As untouchable as Bailey looks at times, the reality is he's less than two years removed from high school competition and has a 4.42 career ERA in 34 minor league games, none above the low-Class A level.
Bailey is expected to begin this season at high-Class A Sarasota, and the Reds would be pleased if he made it up to Chattanooga at some point this year. As for reaching beyond that, Bailey will have to take his time.
"He competes extremely well, he's very composed," Narron acknowledged. "But he still has a long way to go to be a great pitcher. One thing from talking with him, he doesn't want to just make the major leagues, he wants to be a great major league pitcher. That's the kind of attitude you want. I think he understands a big part of that process will be in the minor leagues."
So, the precocious right-hander will pitch today in one of the Reds' split-squad games, getting one more crack at higher-level hitters. Narron said he wants the right-hander to go at least two or three innings this time out. After that, Bailey could very well be headed to minor league camp to continue that maturation process.
"Sometimes you have to do what's best for the long haul, not the short-term," Narron said.
SIMULATED SUCCESS - Reports were good on Eric Milton's simulated game in Sarasota.
The left-hander continued his recovery from a nagging right calf strain Friday by throwing 76 pitches over six innings under controlled conditions at the Reds' complex. According to general manager Wayne Krivsky, Milton allowed five hits and one run while striking out two.
Milton also got some practice at fielding his position, which has been the primary hang-up of his injury.
"He fielded some bunts, felt fine," said Krivsky. "Everything was positive."
How soon might Milton be available to return to Grapefruit League action?
"We'll see how he feels tomorrow," said Krivsky.