GOODYEAR, Ariz. — When somebody tells Homer Bailey to hold his horses, he can literally hold his horses – both of them.
Bailey has two horses, Billy and Dot, that accompany him nearly everywhere he goes and he has them stabled in nearby Buckeye, Ariz. during spring training.
Isn’t that the way all long, tall Texans do it.
And the 6-foot-4, 225-pound native of LaGrange, Tex., is literally holding his horses when it comes to getting ready for the 2015 season after he had surgery last early September to re-connect a torn flexor in his elbow.
He is holding back the reins a bit, making sure all is well before he returns to the mound. So far he has missed a couple of turns throwing off a bullpen mound. But he is optimistic that he’ll make that climb by the end of this week.
Even if he does, it looks as if he won’t be ready by Opening Day and he is shooting for mid-April, which means he would miss a couple of early-season starts.
That also means that instead of looking for two starters to replace traded Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, the Reds are looking for three — at least for a couple of starts.
The competition mostly is between Tony Cingrani, Anthony DeSclafina, Jason Marquis, Paul Maholm, Raisel Iglesias, David Holmberg, Michael Lorenzen and any other strong-armed guy who might wander into the clubhouse off the streets.
"I’d love to say it is back to normal, but that is not the case," he said. "We’re just taking it day-by-day and step-by-step."
While he would like to push it quickly enough to take his first turn, Bailey knows that is not good horse sense, let alone people sense.
"I don’t know, nobody knows," he said. "But I can say it is not like it is going to be June or even late May. We have every confidence in the world that it will be sometime in April. That’s the best we can do, I think."
What pained Bailey almost as his elbow before the surgery was the fact he could do no bow hunting the offseason. Two winters ago during an African safari he bagged a lion with a bow. He had an expedition to Canada planned for this offseason, but it is difficult to pull back a bow string with a surgically repaired elbow.
"I began rehabbing right after the surgery (in September) and that took up most of my time, but that’s OK. I can hunt my butt off when I quit playing. Getting healthy and strong is more important right now."
Bailey hesitates to talk about who might fill out the rotation and said, "It is hard to say because we are broken up into groups and there are guys in camp I haven’t gotten to see throw. Hopefully they will be ready to go because there are two or three spots available to start the season, barring no injuries.
"They say you can’t win the division in April, but every game counts and when September gets here some of those losses in April really hurt, he said. "Those games you lose in April can become real big."
So instead of climbing up a mound these days, Bailey does all his rehab work and then goes back to Buckeye and mounts one of his horses.
To say his return is ultra-important is a vast understatement, especially with the Reds already two starters down after the trades.
Bailey certainly would like to throw a third no-hitter and get back to his form of 2012 when he was 13-10 with a 3.68 earned run average. After all, he knows the Reds are not paying him $105 million to win the Kentucky Derby or ride the range.