I love his attitude.
Bailey happy to be forgotten man
Tuesday 02-26-2008 5:38pm ET
SARASOTA, Fla. -- In the Reds' spring training clubhouse, most of the lockers are arranged in numerical order. That means this year's phenom -- No. 32 Jay Bruce -- is seated right next to last year's phenom -- No. 34 Homer Bailey.
"I just laugh," said Bailey, who was touted as the team's savior just a year ago. "There are so many guys who have been through it -- the top prospect that’s supposed to change things overnight, that doesn't happen often. There are a lot of guys with potential, but for that to happen, we have to do things right on the field."
Don't get Bailey wrong, he thinks Bruce is extremely talented and will certainly find himself at Great American Ball Park at some point this season -- "he's going to be there this year," Bailey said, "it's only a question of when."
However, if Bruce doesn't hit five home runs in his debut or -- God forbid -- he strikes out once or twice, Bailey sees that as part of coming up to the big leagues, not that Bruce is any less of a prospect.
"If he slumps, what are you going to say? He's done? No, he's still got the same talent. He's good – he's really (freaking) good," Bailey said. "He's the best player in our organization. What are you going to say after a slump, that's he's done? He's good enough that you watch him play and say, 'damn.' It's not that he hits a 600-foot home run or a play in the gap. It's that he makes all the routine plays and a bunch of good ones. It's not how far he hits it, it's that he hits a lot of home runs."
As a teammate of Bruce’s in the minor leagues, Bailey knows his fellow Texan is special, not just because of Bruce's talent, but also because of the way he goes about the game.
"When I came to the field every day, I was usually the third or person there every day. I'd get there and Jay would be there and Joey (Votto) would be there and maybe one other guy," Bailey said. "(Bruce) would be out there getting reads off of balls to see how they'd play in every stadium."
Bailey is confident Bruce will do the same thing when he gets to the big leagues and that's why he'll ultimately be successful. However, Bailey also knows how quickly public opinion can sour.
Last spring Bailey's every move was watched and he struggled. When he made his big league debut June 8 against the Indians at Great American Ball Park there was a postseason-type buzz.
When Bailey went five innings and got the win, it was proof that things were turning around. But in his fourth and fifth big league starts, Bailey was shelled and following another start was but on the disabled list dismissed by many as a bomb. Despite going 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts after coming back from the DL, he was still being labeled as "overhyped" by those who had led the cheers. During the off-season, fans called for the team to trade Bailey for other pitchers, counting him out before his 22nd birthday (May 3).
"The only thing that really got me, when we were in Louisville, we watched Reds games and we heard bring him up, 'he's going to struggle let him get the growing pains out,'" Bailey said. "Then I come up and have a couple of bad games and it's, 'why’d we bring him up?' Wait, you're contradicting yourself. It's the big leagues, everyone struggles. I knew I was going to struggle."
As far as 2008 goes, Bailey isn't placing any expectations on himself, even though the expectations of others are suddenly much lighter.
"The only thing I'm doing is going out there and playing. If I do good, I deserve a spot, it's something I have to earn," Bailey said. "I don’t know if I'm at the top of the list or the bottom of the list. I don’t know and I don't want to know. If the team breaks and I'm here, great, I'll be happier than anyone. If I'm not, I know there's stuff I have to work on."
Either way, Bailey's now at ease and ready to watch the spotlight shine on someone else.
"That was such a mess," Bailey said. "Now they've put Jay next to me and I have to hear his (stuff). I told him, I know where you are, because I was there last year. I'm glad that (stuff) is over. That was more of a pain in the (rear) than anything. It was annoying more than anything. I knew going into the spring I wasn't going to make the team."
Bailey's still in the hunt for a spot in the rotation and there are three open positions. Although many saw the team signing Josh Fogg as a lack of confidence in Bailey, he doesn't.
"When I made it up there, I had two bad games. Hello? I'm not worried. We made trades for pitchers, I'm all for it," he said. "Whatever it takes to win, I'm all for it. I don't give a (care) about personal things. If I'm 2-18 and we make the playoffs, I don't care. I hope those are a lot of 1-run losses, but I hope I get a bunt over or something to help us."