No. 5 spot beckons Bailey
Phenom is eager to be in the majors, but won't rush the Reds.
By Hal McCoy
Monday, February 19, 2007
SARASOTA, Fla. — Homer Bailey walked into camp Saturday wearing cowboy boots and a studded cowboy belt around his jeans, looking as if he might be the new sheriff in town.
While that might eventually be the case — Bailey as the No. 1 pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds rotation — right now the 20-year-old No. 1 draft choice (2004) knows that the No. 5 spot in the rotation is open, and that's all he sniffs.
Though he loves to hunt, Homer Bailey knows he's not calling the shots with the Cincinnati Reds. If he had his say, he'd be the Reds' No. 5 starter this season.
It might not happen. Bailey probably will start the season at Class AAA Louisville, and that's all right with him, at least outwardly, but how long can the Reds hold a good man down?
They continue to keep a low profile on Bailey, even Reds manager Jerry Narron, who not only thinks Bailey could be the sheriff, but thinks he could be John Wayne.
Asked about the fifth starter candidates Saturday during the first day of spring training camp, Narron said, "We have a lot of guys to choose from. E-Z (Elizardo Ramirez), Matt Belisle, Paul Wilson, Bobby Livingston, Victor Santos, Kirk Saarloos ..." As he hesitated, somebody said, "H. Bailey," and Narron repeated, "H. Bailey."
Narron, in fact, likes a lot the of arms he sees dangling from his pitchers.
"Outside of us not having a true closer, our pitching is as good as it has been around here for a while," he said.
Bailey is low-keying his situation as much as the organization is soft-shoeing his situation.
"I'm just going day-to-day because there are a lot of good players on this team," he said. "I'd be in trouble if I wanted to be one through four because those spots are taken (Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse). No. 5 is available, so I'd be crazy if I said I didn't want it. But it's not my say, and all I can do is follow what they want."
What Narron says is, "We hope to give Homer a lot of innings this spring, more than we gave him last spring (7.1 innings in four games, two earned runs, nine hits)."
The Reds' position is that Bailey needed to work on a changeup and tighten up his breaking ball, so Bailey said he did more over the winter than down a 13-point buck on a deer-hunting expedition in Texas.
Does Bailey love hunting? Down his left side vertically from his armpit to his hip is tattooed the word, "Cazador" — Spanish for hunter — and on his back is tattooed a hunting scene — a man pointing a shotgun down a road toward trees.
"I drove several times from Austin to Houston to work with a pitching coach, David Evans, a guy I've worked with for five or six years," said Bailey. "We worked on the changeup and breaking ball, and we'll see this spring how much it has improved."