GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The reaction by Homer Bailey after delivering a pitch Sunday afternoon on Field #4 of the Reds training complex made a few interested bystanders take a second look. Bailey was explicit in his disgust at missing the spot he wanted to throw the ball.
Catcher Brayan Pena was more concerned if Bailey felt a twinge, or worse, in his surgically repaired right forearm.
"I might have yelled more than one F-word there if had hurt again," said Bailey after completing his first start of the spring, a two-inning workload against Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers. "No, everything is fine."
Bailey threw 29 pitches, 20 of them for strikes, while giving up one hit, one walk and striking out two batters on a clear and hot Arizona afternoon. It’s the first time Bailey has pitched in a game environment since last Aug. 7 against Cleveland when he struck out eight and four-hit Cleveland through seven innings in a 4-0 victory. He had to skip his next start, however, and ended up having surgery in September to repair a torn flexor tendon in his forearm.
Most importantly, he’s come out of the entire rehab process feeling well.
"I’d say we’re on a pretty good track," said Bailey. "We’ve come back healthy and we haven’t had any setbacks. I’d have to say this whole thing has gone pretty smooth."
The Reds have been hoping for Bailey to be ready to pitch for them by the middle of April, possibly having to miss up to two turns through the rotation at the start of the season. There are different options they can proceed to reach that point, including possibly placing Bailey on the disabled list retroactive to the final week of spring training and having him start one or two games in the minor leagues.
Bailey has tentatively, however, been scheduled to start a Cactus League game next Friday night against Milwaukee.
"I think I could have gone with a major league game today, it’s just the workload," said Bailey. "Two innings and let’s try to build up. This time of the year it really doesn’t matter about the games themselves as long as we’re in games in general."
Manager Bryan Price said Monday will be another test for Bailey. How Bailey feels the day after is just as important as during an outing. Where and against whom he pitches next will be dependent on the next few days.
“It’s up in the air,” said Price. “We’re waiting to see how he bounces back and how we really want to go about doing his rehab. You get to a certain point where you can’t play him or pitch him in big league games and then activate him when we want to. We’ve got to be cautious. If we give him too much too soon and also be conscious of when he can pitch and still be activated on the date we anticipate him being ready to pitch in the big leagues.”
Bailey was 9-5 with a 3.71 ERA in 23 starts last season and was on pace to eclipse 200 innings for a third straight season when his injury occurred.
He looked smooth and comfortable in this first outing, even if he did miss his spots from time to time.
"It’s a good thing that we play in front of a lot of fans or you’d probably here it every pitch," said Bailey. "I just missed a spot. I was trying to go in and I missed up. I got a swing and miss but I was kind of mad that I didn’t make the pitch."
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