CINCINNATI — It was a quiet Sunday morning in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse as players went about their business of preparing for the final game of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
Pitcher Homer Bailey was in his chair in front of his locker, chatting softly with former Reds bullpen star Sam LeCure.
“I was just bouncing a few things off him,” said LeCure, who served as a bullpen guru to many young Reds relief pitchers when LeCure was one of baseball’s best set-up pitchers.
As a long-time admirer and friend, LeCure feels Bailey’s pain from the recent beatings Bailey has absorbed.
One of the things LeCure threw out was that Bailey might do well to pitch out of the stretch all the time instead of a full wind-up, “Because he doesn’t lose anything out of the stretch as some pitchers do. He is 94 miles an hour in the wind-up and 94 miles an hour out of the stretch.”
LeCure described Bailey’s wind-up as cookie cutter, a wind-up that doesn’t hide the baseball very well. “He has always done it that way and as long as he had success nobody said anything,” said LeCure. “His wind-up is one-two-three and the hitter’s approach is one-two-three. If he pitches from the stretch he can vary his timing. He can hold the ball longer, he can use a slide step. Anything to disrupt the hitter’s timing.
“Right now he is just flat,” said LeCure. “His slider has always been short and effective. Now I just see the one-plane pitch. It doesn’t have the tilt it once had.”
LeCure wonders if Bailey might use his curve ball a little more, “Because it is a great one. He and I played catch many times and that thing is heavy. It is like catching a shot put. The other day he started mixing it in, which gave him separation (in speeds) on his pitches. There isn’t much separation in his fastball (94) and slider (88), the timing has shrunk between the two pitches, which makes the hitter’s bat quicker.”
Bailey has said he doesn’t use his curve as much as he once did because the bottom falls out of it and umpires were not calling it for strikes. “Yes, his curve is so sharp it fools everybody,” said LeCure. “I mean, he is throwing strikes, he stays ahead in counts, he is doing a lot of good things. But he is getting hit hard because his pitches are just flat, just like Luis Castillo was doing when he struggled earlier this year. His stuff was good, but it’s flat. You have to have the angle and drive it down in the zone.”
LeCure, a part-time broadcaster with the Reds, makes it clear he isn’t being pushy in the clubhouse, that he isn’t trying to impart wisdom on everything, but when he sees a friend in stress he thought maybe a brief keep-the-chin-up chat from a different voice might do some good.
“I just wanted to bounce a few things off him and I told him, ‘Dude, I’m not trying to fill your head with a bunch of crap,’ but I know that you are not this pitcher and you know it, too.’ It’s like you hear the same thing 10 different ways and with one way the light suddenly comes on.”
Bailey, 1-and-5 with a 6.11 earned run average, could use an LED light bulb to snap on immediately.
EVEN THOUGH HE IS struggling now, it isn’t likely Bailey will be bumped from the rotation in a couple of weeks if Anthony DeSclafani’s rehabilitative work continues to progress.
DeSclafani is just two minor-league starts away from joining the Reds, if all goes well. He pitched five-plus innings for Class AA Pensacola Sunday. He gave up three runs, only two earned, walked one and struck out eight during his 76-pitch outing.
“The reports on him are real good,” said Reds manager Jim Riggleman. “He has two more starts and assuming everything is fine he will join us.”
And where would he be placed?
“Right into the rotation, he is definitely being stretched out to start,” said Riggleman. “He has always been a starter and he’ll come here as a starter. The adjustment we’ll make in our rotation has yet to be determined.”
Based on Riggleman’s criteria, it isn’t likely Homer Bailey will go to the bullpen. The competition the next two weeks is probably between Sal Romano and Matt Harvey, unless Luis Castillo has a meltdown. Right now it probably would be Romano to the bullpen or to the minors after a couple of horrendous starts. Harvey had a fantastic debut and then a less-than-ordinary follow-up. He has two weeks to show he should stay in the rotation.
“For the most part it will be performance-based,” said Riggleman. “We might take in some other considerations. Sometimes it is a matter of who can do it and who can’t out of the bullpen. You know, how durable are you, how quick can you get loose in the bullpen, that kind of stuff.”
That practically eliminated Bailey, who has never worked out of the bullpen and probably isn’t durable enough to pitch three times in four days. Harvey was relegated to the bullpen this year by the New York Mets and vociferously displayed his displeasure and wasn’t very good. Romano has never worked out of the bullpen, either, but unless he polishes his starting act he is the odds-on either to go to the bullpen or return to Louisville for re-education on locating his fastball.
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