Bailey hunts for his chance to rejoin Reds
By Michael Grant • email@example.com • April 8, 2009
Hunting has taught Homer Bailey the value of patience.
In the offseason, the Cincinnati Reds prospect and current Louisville Bats pitcher took a break from baseball to enjoy his other favorite pastime. He relaxed by bow hunting for deer in South Dakota, Kansas, Canada and Texas. Sometimes he would wait more than a week, sitting from sunrise to sunset and never having a chance for a kill.
Bailey never gets anxious. He is always alert.
A hunting trip can be "a long time if you think about it," the 23-year-old Texan said. "It's been a couple of weeks at times where I've never drawn back (the bow), but you're always mentally in it. You're always expecting things. At any minute it's going to happen, like that. If you're not alert, it will pass you right by."
After biding his time in nature, Bailey is biding his time in the minor leagues. He was demoted from Cincinnati last weekend after being beaten out for the fifth spot in the Reds' rotation by fellow right-hander Micah Owings. He'll be the opening-day starter for the Bats at Louisville Slugger Field tomorrow when they take on the Columbus Clippers.
It seems like a long time since Bailey was the organizational hotshot. He was named the top overall prospect by Baseball America from 2005 through '07 and has been a much-ballyhooed fireballer since being baseball's No. 7 draft choice in '04.
In the big leagues, however, Bailey's outings have been unspectacular. He was 0-6 with a 7.93 ERA with Cincinnati last year and 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA in '07.
Being patient in the wild is one thing. Being patient in the minors is another.
"I'm not patient at all with that," Bailey said. "But the only thing I can do here is do my job: get people out. Whatever happens happens. It's a real pain … but there's nothing you can do about it. I don't see myself getting traded. Hopefully, things will turn out OK."
Bailey isn't bitter but instead sounds confident and eager for a promotion -- and Reds farm director Terry Reynolds doesn't disagree.
In the past the organization expressed concerns about Bailey's breaking pitches and his ability to hold runners. But Reynolds said Bailey's recent demotion had more to do with Cincinnati's depth of starting pitching.
In spring training Bailey had a 2.61 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 202/3 innings.
"He's over the hump," Reynolds said. "I think he's a major league-ready pitcher. It's just going to take a spot in Cincinnati for him to get that. He pitched very well this spring. I think everybody is excited about him. I think he's there."
Bailey's major league problem has been an inability to put hitters away. According to the 2009 Baseball Prospectus, National League batters hit .185 with two strikes last year. But Bailey allowed opponents to hit a staggering .391 with two strikes, with a .638 slugging percentage. In a 5-1 loss to Colorado he allowed 15 hits -- the most by a Reds right-hander since 1982.
But Bailey believes an adjustment in his mechanics will help. Working with University of Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson, Bailey corrected a delivery flaw.
"I was keeping my weight over my foot and not swinging my left leg," he said. "It was throwing me off-balance. (This change) just helps you be more consistent with your pitches."
Pitching with the Bats wasn't a problem in 2007, when Bailey was 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA. Last year he went 4-7 with a 4.77 ERA. He knows the best case he can make for a call-up will be pitching well.
The hunter is waiting and ready for something to happen.
"I have to keep staying the course, or whatever the generic term is," he said. "Keep pushing forward."
Michael Grant can be reached at (502) 582-4069.