Baker focusing on pushing Homer Bailey to success
By Hal McCoy
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Dusty Baker was speaking figuratively when he said it, but it might have meant a lot to Homer Bailey if Baker actually did it.
Asked about Homer Bailey, the Cincinnati Reds manager said, "Here's the ball, Homer, go get 'em."
That's the way Baker plans his approach with Bailey this spring as one of the myriad of candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
It is Bailey's fourth year in major-league camp and his second legitimate opportunity to win a rotation spot.
He came to camp last year with lofty expectations, expectations that crumbled to a 0-6 record and 7.93 ERA in eight starts.
And he lost the No. 5 spot to Josh Fogg last spring training.
"Hope is what puts the big name in camp on Bailey every year because he happens to be a No. 1 draft choice (2004)," said Baker. "I'm not going to put any pressure on him other than what he puts on himself. I'm pulling for him, big-time. He is one of the guys in the mix."
Baker said if Bailey doesn't make the rotation, he could be long guy in the bullpen, "Because we have some spots open."
Bailey said it isn't something he has done, "But whatever Dusty wants. If he wants me to play first base, I'll do it — although it will never come to that."
With clamor from some fans and some media, Bailey was rushed to the majors in late 2007, when he was 20, and he has had on-the-job failure ever since.
"He's had some opportunity, but he is still so young," Baker added. "He's not close to having his opportunities exhausted. He's 22. We've just heard about him forever. You'd think he was 30 years old. We'll keep trying to instruct him. The ball is in his hand."
Figuratively — meaning if he drops it, it is his own fault. And that meets with Bailey's approval.
"I had a pretty good off-season and that always helps," he said. "I feel good physically. Just another year of opportunity.
"I took November off, then in December I started working out Monday through Friday, then went hunting on the weekends," he said.
Somebody asked if Bailey had put on weight, but he said to the contrary, he lost weight. "I ended the season at 215 and now I'm at 205. They said gaining weight wouldn't hurt me, but I feel better than I ever felt."
Bailey welcomes Baker's attention.
"I'm glad I have his confidence, but he has confidence in all his players. Anybody to whom he hands the ball he has 100 percent confidence.
"It's good he is thinking of me and I went through the same thinking last year so maybe I feel a little more confident because I've gone through it.
Last season, Bailey pitched some decent games and still lost, to go with some rather dreadful ones.
"There were a few games I made one mistake or two that cost us a game and there were some where we even came to win games when I put us behind," he said. "That's more important to me — the team winning than me getting a 'W' in the paper the next day."
Of his competition, Bailey said, "There are a lot of good pitchers in camp. I was watching them the first day and there a lot of new faces. Looks as if we'll have a lot of quality arms in camp. That's good for the team."