Reds have their reasons for not rushing up Bailey
By Marc Katz
Mack Jenkins evoked the names of David Clyde and Todd Van Poppel, then he brought up Ryan Wagner.
It was all designed to mean don't expect to see Homer Bailey hurried along to the big leagues. Bailey just turned 20 on May 3.
"It's not the result," said Jenkins, the Reds minor league pitching coordinator. "It's the process."
So while Bailey is throwing 97-mph fastballs and shutting down Class AA Southern League opponents, he still has to work on other pitches, his quickness in delivering the ball to the plate, covering first base and other sundry skills.
"It's not how quick you make it to the majors," Reds field coordinator and former farm director Tim Naehring said. "It's how long you stay."
David Clyde was drafted as an 18-year-old by Texas in 1973, the first player taken. By the time he was finished in the majors at the tender age of 24, he had compiled an 18-33 record and 4.63 ERA.
Van Poppel was also a first-round pick. He was in the majors with the A's in 1991, the year after he was drafted, and still a teenager. Van Poppel lasted a bit longer in the majors — off and on through 2004 (he was with the Reds). But his overall record was just 40-52 with a 5.58 ERA. He's not going to the Hall of Fame.
Wagner was drafted in the first round by the Reds in 2003 out of the University of Houston and was considered nearly major-league ready.
He zoomed through the Reds' system, from Class AA Chattanooga (5 games) to Class AAA Louisville (4 games) to the Reds, where he was 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA in 17 games.
Wagner's ERA bloated to 4.70 in 2004 and 6.11 last season. He is now struggling at Louisville.
"Wagner had success, a lot of success," Jenkins said. "Then, he became too predictable. When all the scouting reports came in (from other teams), they said, 'If you see a slider, don't swing.' "
His slider was always just off the plate, a sucker pitch for batters because they couldn't reach it. When they stopped swinging, Wagner had to come over the plate with another more hittable pitch.
The learning process is the same with position players, and it isn't all about hitting. It's about fielding, too.
Votto, for instance, used to be a catcher. He has been working on playing first base, and the Reds want to make sure he has it right before they promote him to the big club. Of late, the Reds have had fielding problems.
"Joey needs work holding runners, fielding bunts, turning double plays," Reds assistant farm director Grant Griesser said. "And it's a lot better learning defense when you're swinging the bat well."
Votto is swinging the bat well in Chattanooga, where he is in contention for a triple crown.
Numbers are mostly the focus. There is more to it. Bailey and Votto will eventually make it to the majors, and soon.
Just not right now.