Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky's official stance on when Homer Bailey comes to the big leagues is this:
"He'll let us know when he's ready," Krivsky said.
Could that be on Opening Day 2007?
"I'm not going to say no to anything," Krivsky said. "We'll let it play out."
Bailey, a 20-year-old phenom, was in town Wednesday night to accept the Chief Bender Award as the Reds minor league player of the year.
Bailey, with stylishly long hair, was the big attraction at the LaSalle Sports Stag, where he accepted the Bender Award. He also will be on the Reds Caravan, which kicks off today.
Topic 1 on the caravan will be Bailey's future.
Krivsky understands this, although he'd like to spend less time talking about it.
"This is about the team," Krivsky said. "It's not about one guy. We'll do what's right for him. We know people love to talk about it because, quite frankly, the Reds haven't had a prospect like Homer in a long time."
Bailey went 10-6 with a 2.47 ERA in 26 starts split evenly between Single-A Sarasota and Double-A Chattanooga. Baseball America ranks him as the second-best pitching prospect in all of baseball.
Bailey has the confidence and swagger of an ace as well as having a 98 mph fastball.
He'll take that confidence with him to spring training.
"I want to make it a tough decision for them," he said. "I'm going to work hard and make it tough on them."
Bailey is aware of his mini-celebrity in Cincinnati.
"I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it," he said. "I've got some friends who keep up with it. They let me know about it. But it doesn't matter what (the media) thinks or what I think. We don't make the decisions."
Krivsky will make the call. But, as Bailey said, he can make it very tough on the Reds by having a good spring. He's been throwing since December. He plans to have five or six bullpen sessions before he leaves for Sarasota.
If the Reds simply were going on stuff, Bailey would be a lock to make the team.
"We got to see him last spring," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "His stuff is outstanding. What we're looking for is command on all his pitches. We'll see what kind of advances he's made."
The key for Bailey will be how well he throws his third pitch - the changeup.
"He's still got some things to work on," said Tim Naehring, the club's minor league field coordinator. "He's got the big fastball and the power breaking ball. He got over the hump as far as command of them early (last season). Later, he started to get a good feel for the changeup.
"That third pitch is key for him if he aspires to be a No. 1 or 2 starter in the big leagues."
That's exactly what the Reds think Bailey can be. His numbers last season at Double-A Chattanooga were off the chart. He went 7-1 with a 1.59 ERA. He struck out 77, walked 28 and allowed 50 hits in 68 innings.
"He's a competitive guy," Naehring said. "He's a smart guy. He wants to know why. Those are the kind of guys you want."
That's one of the reasons Narron doesn't worry about all the publicity Bailey gets and all the pressure that's on him to succeed.
"I might worry about it if I had not met him," Narron said. "He's very, very level-headed. He wants to be a great big league pitcher. He doesn't just want to get to the big leagues."
Bailey says pressure, what pressure?
"I don't look at it as pressure," he said. "I want to be as good as I can. (Pressure) doesn't bother me."