GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Homer Bailey was on a diet to die for — eat, eat, eat, eat and eat some more.
His intention was to gain weight, add some strength to his thermometer-thin body, maybe avoid the nagging injuries that have oft-interrupted his Cincinnati Reds pitching career.
So he hooked up with a nutritionist in Newport, Ky., named Brian Wieferins.
Article continues below ...
In four weeks, Bailey went from 204 pounds to 227 pounds.
“And it wasn’t like I was eating at McDonald’s,” he said with a laugh. “I was eating everything I could get my hands on, seven meals a day.
“Six eggs for breakfast and two pieces of toast,” he said. “Fruit. Bunch of meat. Three sandwiches for lunch. The biggest steak I could find for dinner. Vegetables. It was a lot of fun.
“And with every meal I had a milkshake,” he added. “It was pretty tough to do the first week, but I got used to it. He told me to eat until I couldn’t eat anymore, but not to throw up or make myself sick.
“I did it, put on weight, when I didn’t think it could be done,” said Bailey. “I’m at 225 right now and feel pretty good with it, feel really comfortable.
“I don’t feel any different, per se. I don’t feel heavy when I’m walking around or running,” said the 6-3, 25-year-old right-hander, already in his sixth year of being in and out of the Reds rotation.
He was 9-7 last year with a 4.43 earned run average in 22 starts after missing the first month coming out of spring training with a shoulder impingement. And he was on the disabled list from May 28 to June 25 with a sprained right shoulder.
“I know I don’t feel heavy, if that makes any sense,” he said of his added bulk. “It is kind of the theory that this might help me stay away from injuries. I don’t feel this will hurt anything, how’s that?”
Bailey said Wieferins told him he could go from 207 to 218 or 222 in three weeks and Bailey said, “No way. Then after four weeks I was at 227.
“Literally, the first week was really tough,” he said. “That’s a lot of food per day. Once I got the routine down, it was pretty easy.”
Of Bailey’s weight gain, manager Dusty Baker said, “I didn’t think anything about it. Only thing that matters to me is how he performs and if it is better and if he stays healthy with it.”
Bailey, of course, is in competition for a rotation spot with newly acquired Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and, maybe, Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman’s immediate future is up in the air because the grand plan for him was foiled by a tired arm late last season.
“We’re going to stretch Chapman out to see,” said manager Dusty Baker. “We have to see if there is enough time to stretch him out far enough to be a starter. If there isn’t time, or if there isn’t quality, you can always back him up back into the bullpen.
“We would have had an answer by now if things had gone according to plan — Instructional League, Fall League, Puerto Rico. Things barely got through the Instructional League and early in the Fall League we had to shut him down. His arm wasn’t ready to do that.”
The Cuban Missile, who regularly touches 100 on the radar gun and sometimes reaches 105, was signed to be a starter but worked out of the bullpen as a set-up guy last year. In 50 innings over 54 games, Chapman was 4-1 with a 3.60 ERA with 41 walks and 71 strikeouts.
What happens if Chapman can’t be stretched out? Will be return to the bullpen or be optioned to Class AAA Louisville to start down there?
“It depends on our needs and I’m not opposed to going with three lefties in the bullpen (Bill Bray, Sean Marshall and Chapman), not at all. Some of these decisions are mine, but not all my decisions only.”
Without Chapman, the rotation would be all right handed but that doesn’t perplex Baker.
“I want the five best guys and if they are all right handed that’s fine with me,” said Baker. “I’d rather have a good right hander than a bad left hander in there.”