THE PIRATES had
just lit up Homer Bailey for three runs and three hits in two innings in his
first exhibition start, but you never would have known it by the look on the
face of the second-best pitching prospect in baseball, after Phil Hughes.
"I don't even know who I just faced," Bailey said a half hour later,
already showered and looking as if he'd just awakened from a nap. "I've
heard of [ Pittsburgh first baseman] Adam LaRoche, but not the other guys. I
don't watch much baseball on TV."
not?" he was asked.
"I see 160-some games a year [in person] already."
The laconic Texan
will take his laid-back attitude and free-and-easy throwing motion to Triple A
Louisville to start the season. Like Hughes, he could be in the big leagues not
too long after Memorial Day, especially given the dreadful state of the
Cincinnati rotation behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. First, however, the
6'4", 205-pound Bailey must refine a new changeup to go along with his
96-mph fastball and nasty slider.
What Bailey, who
in 2006 was 10--6 and held opponents to a .198 average in Class A and Double A
combined, quickly learned is that even journeyman major leaguers such as Jose
Hernandez are formidable foes. With a full count and two men on base in his
appearance against the Pirates, Bailey threw Hernandez a changeup, and it was a
good one too. Hernandez fouled off the pitch, to the amazement of the young
pitcher, who had figured the hitter would never think change on a 3-and-2 pitch
from a rookie. Hernandez lined the next pitch, a fastball, for a two-run double
Not long after
being pulled, Bailey was talking hunting, the other sport he loves. He has
traveled all over North America hunting with a bow or a rifle, mostly for
white-tailed deer, and this winter he went on an eight-day,
survival-of-the-fittest trip to northern Saskatchewan, where the wind-chill
settled around --30 most days. "I'm a trophy hunter," he says. "I
love the big game." For the Reds to be a contender this year, Bailey's
going to have to win a few of them.