New Lookouts pitcher mowing down opponents
By David Paschall Staff Writer
It takes Homer Baileyís fastball about four-tenths of a second to reach home plate, which is a miniscule number unless itís compared to his earned run average.
Through his f irst two appearances with the Chattanooga Lookouts, Bailey has an 0.00 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 12 innings. The top prospect of the Cincinnati Reds, who signed for $2.3 million in 2004, allowed five hits last Thursday in his BellSouth Park debut against Carolina and did not allow any in six innings Tuesday night in Huntsville.
"There are certain things we are working on with Homer and certain things he needs to accomplish while heís there," Reds director of player development Johnny Almaraz said Wednesday. "He seems to be making the adjustments and doing what he needs to do, and itís translated into success for him."
Baileyís third Double-A start will be Sunday afternoon at BellSouth against Jacksonville, which posted the best first-half record of any Southern League team at 48-22. Lookouts owner Frank Burke is aboard the Bailey bonanza, announcing Wednesday that the first 500 fans to Sundayís game will receive "Homer hankies."
Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens is not caught up in the hype, saying the 20-year-old right-handerís effort Tuesday was no improvement over last Thursday.
"He was facing the lowesthitting team in the league," Owens said. "It was a good outing numbers-wise, but I donít think it was a good outing for his development. He definitely needs to start throwing more off-speed pitches, because you canít just sit on 94 and 95 (mph) in the big leagues and get away with it. The major league hitters will turn that around and will sit on it.
"What he needs is to face some better-hitting teams and get more of a challenge for himself, where he canít just rare back and throw it 94 by people. There are guys on our team that if he did that to ó I know Aaron Herr would be able to turn it around."
Bailey, who had an 89 mph fastball as a 15-year-old freshman at La Grange (Texas) High School, is pleased with his progress and recognizes it needs to continue. Reds fans are clamoring for an imminent promotion to the big leagues, but the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder quietly is leaving those decisions to organizational brass headed by first-year general manager Wayne Krivsky.
What Bailey would like in the not-too-distant future is a seventh-inning appearance.
"I came out after the sixth (Tuesday) with 86 pitches, and I begged them for nine more," Bailey said. "I wanted any pitch I could get, but I understood that we were up in the game and have to trust the bullpen. Theyíve done a great job."
Asked why he didnít let Bailey get to his desired pitch count between 95 and 100 in Huntsville, Owens said: "He had done his job, and all I had seen him do was throw fastballs."
While Owens would like more changeups and curveballs, Almaraz said the most important developmental aspect for Bailey is a fastball consistently down in the strike zone. In his final pitch of last Thursdayís win, Baileyís fastball was clocked at 98 mph.
"We didnít mandate for him to throw any certain type of pitches," Almaraz said. "We want him to pitch with his fastball. As far as the breaking pitch is concerned, when he uses it, we want him to be able to throw it for strikes and not overthrow it. He has such a great arm and wants every pitch to be outstanding, and thereís nothing wrong with every pitch being good.
"Itís just a mental maturity state he needed to learn. Heís learning that Homer Bailey at 93 or 94 is pretty darn good down in the strike zone."
The Reds are viewing Jacksonville as Baileyís first legitimate test. Should he pass that and continue progressing, the Lookouts are no lock in having him for the playoffs.
"A lot of people right now are looking at the bottom line," Almaraz said. "Weíre looking at the details. Is he holding runners on? Is he giving the catcher a chance to throw the runner out if he gets a good jump? Is he using his breaking ball if he gets behind in the count? Is he pitching down in the zone to start hitters off with?
"There are a bunch of little details that compose the overall pitcure, and we want to make sure that heís doing the little things before we do move him to the next level. He will dictate to us whether itís enough of a challenge at the Double-A level to continue pitching there or not.
"If itís no longer a challenge for him, then we will move him on to the next level and continue working on the small things."
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