When Homer Bailey returned to the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse Sunday from his rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville, the media was told he would meet with them before Monday’s game.
The meeting took place, brief as it was. Anybody expecting a long and insightful interview doesn’t know Homer Bailey.
To him, words are meaningless in his situation — the fewer the better and the more taciturn the better.
Bailey doesn’t want to talk. He wants to pitch. And that is what he will do Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. His first start since May 28 will be his 13th start of the season.
After his May 28 start, Bailey was told he would be relegated to the bullpen. He balked and said he never had pitched out of the bullpen and didn’t believe he could do it. A few days later, June 2, he was placed on the disabled list with knee inflammation.
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When his knee permitted it, Bailey went to Louisville and made six appearances. His last one was outstanding — seven innings, no runs, four hits, three walks and three strikeouts against Rochester. The previous start was six innings, four runs, seven hits, three walks and 10 strikeouts against Columbus.
So is he ready to erase the memory of the first two months when he was 1-7 with a 6.68 ERA?
“It was good (the rehab) because the last couple of starts I threw over 100 pitches,” said Bailey in the first few seconds on a two-minute interview. “I saw some good results, so here we go.”
Asked when he felt he was ready to pitch in the bigs and was it after his last two rehab starts, Bailey smiled and said, “Probably today. I’m pitching tomorrow. I’m ready.”
The knee injury was broached, and Bailey was asked if his knee had bothered him for a long time. He said, “Define bothering. I mean, there is something always bothering you. I guess they decided to test it out (in Louisville) somewhere where it wouldn’t affect the team as much.”
Bailey’s reticence to pitch out of the bullpen is understandable because he never has done it and he takes a long time to warm up. He historically has trouble in first innings, too.
“The list is short to say what would be good about it,” he said. “It’s nothing. I’m starting tomorrow so let’s not go there. Starting is what I’ve always done. It is nothing new. Just kind of another day.”
Bailey paused when somebody said at least the knee injury was minor compared to three surgeries on his arm and shoulder the past four years. Then he said, “Some ol’ thing. Sorry it isn’t a better story for you. I don’t know what to tell you.”
Asked if he was in a better place with the team than he was before he left for Louisville, Bailey said, “As long as I can be more effective, I’m going to be in a better place. Hopefully, we can do that.”
Bailey did something out of the ordinary after one start in Louisville. He contacted an old coach from years gone by, a guy named Skip Johnson.
“It was after one start down there and I just didn’t like where I was,” he said. “I thank Nick Krall and Dick Williams for letting me go over there to Oklahoma to see Skip. I met Skip after the 2008 season.”
So what did he and Skip work on?
“I’d go into details, but it is nothing you would understand,” he saids to a writer. “It’s technical stuff.”
That’s Homer Bailey. He isn’t mean. He isn’t rude. It is his personality, something the media learns to deal with. All will be well and good if he takes that technical stuff we don’t understand to the mound and misses all those St. Louis bats.
And it is no mystery why manager Jim Riggleman has to plug Bailey into the rotation and, for now, put the starters into a six-man rotation. It is the $21 million Bailey is being paid, and he isn’t being paid to pitch for Louisville and he isn’t being paid to be designated for assignment and not pitch at all for his money.
Riggleman was asked point-blank by C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic, “Is there some awkwardness when a guy comes in and forces you to go to a six-man rotation and do things differently only because of the contract?”
Riggleman was ready with a diplomatic answer.
“It would be more awkward if it was just unheard of,” he said. “More and more teams are doing it. I saw where the Dodgers are talking about going to six and Tampa Bay. A couple of teams have said, ‘We’re going to six now,’ so it is not as awkward as it would be if we were the first team doing it or the only team doing it.
“With the way they have added so many off days, so many guys are pitching on more than four days of rest anyway,” he said. “With us not having any off days in this stretch, our guys will be pitching on five days of rest, which is what we have done a lot anyways with all the off days.”
SCOOTER GENNETT, fighting a sore shoulder, was not in Monday’s starting lineup, but the shoulder wasn’t the problem. He came to the clubhouse feeling ill and weak.
Brandon Dixon, more of a first baseman and outfielder than a second baseman, took his place. Dilson Herrera, an experienced second baseman, was left in the dugout. As always, though, Riggleman was ready with a plausible explanation.
“Dixon has been playing more lately with recent at bats in Louisville,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep him up there while he is as current as possible, seeing pitches. I certainly can make a case for Herrera, too, with the potential he has with the bat. Dixon has been getting the at-bats lately and maybe has a better chance.
IF YOU WANT TO see respect, you had to see the look on Jared Hughes’ face and his response after a short conversation with Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench in the Reds clubhouse Monday afternoon.
Bench looked at Hughes, the Reds’ sinker-balling relief pitcher, and said, “You should never be in trouble. All you have to do is throw that sinker down-and-away to get a ground ball and run to cover first base.”
Hughes smiled broadly and said, “Thank you very much, sir. Thank you, Mr. Bench. Hughes then jotted the conversation into his journal, a little book in which he makes notations about anything and everything.