A long, lanky Texan wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots walked into the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse Sunday morning, a long suit bag draped over his right shoulder.
“Hey, H.B., did I leave you enough parking space?” Scooter Gennett yelled as Homer Bailey settled into his dressing cubicle. Bailey drives a large pick-up truck, Texas-style, and Gennett feared he didn’t leave Bailey enough room for Bailey in his players’ parking lot spot.
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“Homer Bailey is in the house,” said relief pitcher Jared Hughes, a large grin plastered across his face. “Welcome back, partner.”
Yes, Homer Bailey returned Sunday from his long rehab assignment at Class AAA Louisville and he takes a turn in the rotation Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.
So who drops out of the rotation? Nobody. It was suspected that Sal Romano would be the odd man out, but Romano is scheduled to start Wednesday night.
What that means is that for the immediate future, at least until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cincinnati Reds are in a six-man rotation.
“We only have about eight days until the trade deadline, so the six-man would only mean about 1 1/2 turns through the rotation,” said manager Jim Riggleman.
Most assume that starter Matt Harvey will be traded and the Reds can slip back into the routine of a normal five-man rotation.
But what if Harvey isn’t traded — and Riggleman said he’d love to keep the veteran pitcher in the rotation -- “I don’t think we’d stay in the six-man for very long.
“This will be a little bit of a challenge and we’ll see how that works out,” said Riggleman. “With one less arm in the bullpen, we’ll see if that puts too much strain on the bullpen. If it does we won’t be able to stay with that six-man plan.”
If Harvey is traded, the rotation makeup is easy. If Harvey stays, things become jumbled. “We go back to five if Harvey is traded. If he isn’t traded? I have no indication that he will be traded, no indication at all. But we won’t stay in a six-man for a long period unless we run into a long period of no off days and those guys are giving us six innings. If they’re not, that’s another big strain on the bullpen,” said Riggleman.
Riggleman, of course, would love to conintue to see Harvey in a Reds uniform every five days, but that is up to the front office. Harvey refuses to talk about his past with the New York Mets and with what his future might be. He has indicated that he loves Cincinnati and loves the Reds and loves the way the players have accepted him.
“Based on his comments, he is enjoying pitching here in Cincinnati,” said Riggleman. “He’ll let it play out to whatever he does, but he likes it here and his performance indicates that he is getting better and better.
“We hope he stays here,” said Riggleman, and the ‘we’ means himself and the coaching staff and the players. “We’re fortunate to have him and it was a great acquisition by our front office to get him.
“I have a lot of hope that he will not be traded, but as far as something to be worked out (a contract extension with the Reds), that’s something between him and his agent and Nick Krall, Dick Williams, Walt Jocketty and Mr. (Bob) Castellini. They all deal with part of the issue.
“Cincinnati has been good for him, but the big thing is that he is getting healty,” Riggleman added. “Those two operations he went through, well, the second one was particularly devastating with a long recovery period. As good as we’ve seen Matt I just think he is getting healthier and healthier. We’ll probably see an even healthier guy next year.”
On July 18, 2016, Harvey underwent something called thoracic outlet surgery that required removal of a rib to relieve pressure on his pitching arm. Harvey was experience numbness in his pitching arm. The recovery process was long and arduous and he spent most of 2017 shaking off the residue.
Now he says that is all behind him, that is why he didn’t pitch well in his latter days with the Mets, but now he is pitching 100 per cent healthy. He would be a much-needed presence in the Reds rotation, but he also could be a push-them-over-the-top pitcher for a contender in need of a starter.
Riggleman said Bailey has no limitations, no pitch counts or number of innings hovering over his head for his Tuesday start.
“He has been stretched out to seven innings and used numerous pitches,” said Riggleman. “But in today’s world, any time we get to 110 pitches, we’re thinking we’re getting close to the end. But hopefully, he’ll get that far.”
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