Notes: Bailey learning on the job
Reds prospect struggles in first Grapefruit League start
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Struggling in the second inning of an exhibition game was more valuable to Reds top pitching prospect Homer Bailey than when he coasted in the first inning.The 20-year-old knew the adversity was part of his big-league education. In a 10-4 Cincinnati win over the Pirates, Bailey zipped through a 1-2-3 first inning with two groundouts and a flyout. The second inning wasn't so smooth when the right-hander faced seven batters and allowed three earned runs, three hits, a walk and two wild pitches. He also received a mid-inning visit from pitching coach Dick Pole to catch his breath, something he rarely needed in the Minors. Bailey rushed his pitches, which caused him to leave his mid-to-high-90s mph fastball up and over the plate. "If I'm [in the Majors] early this season, just like I'm working to be, there are going to be times I get hit around. So what?" Bailey said. "The sun is coming up the next day. What you do is learn by it. Some people are scared to death of making a mistake and looking bad out there. I personally don't care. You have to know what you need to do now." Did the right-hander feel any difference between pitching in the Minors and the Majors? "Home to the pitcher's mound is still 60 feet," responded Bailey, the Reds' first-round draft pick in 2004. True, but Major League hitters weren't as easily fooled as those at levels below. One of Bailey's few shortcomings last season was his changeup. Even when it was effective like it was on Sunday, he didn't always get the desired results. An example was when Bailey threw the changeup for a first pitch to Jose Hernandez in the second inning. Hernandez was way out in front and swung and missed. Bailey tried the same pitch later in the at-bat with a full count on Hernandez. "[I said] 'He's going to miss this one big time.' No, he fouled it off," Bailey said. "[I thought] 'You've got to be kidding me! How did you foul it off?'" Hernandez capped the duel with a two-run double to right field. In the Minors, Bailey often shut down opposing lineups with little difficulty.
"It's a great learning experience for him to get a start in a Major League exhibition game," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He's going to pitch some more. He'll get better. Sometimes, all of us think he'll go on the mound and just dominate every time he steps out there. That's just not going to happen."Narron said Bailey would get more innings, but it was unlikely he would start him again this spring. Unlike established Reds pitchers getting ready for April, Bailey doesn't have the full luxury of honing his shortcomings during Spring Training. Although expected to begin the season in Triple-A, he's pushing to earn the fifth spot in the rotation. "You're definitely working on some stuff, but you're trying to show what you have," Bailey said. "Earlier on, I was more working the breaking stuff and changeup. Now what I'll be working on is usually what I don't have to worry about -- getting a fastball down. There's always work to be done, but then again, I also have to compete. "Being a young pitcher, you always hear various pitchers being a student of the game. I'll be the first one to tell you that I'm not. But I will do whatever it takes to be the best at what I do. It's saying, 'This is what I need to work on. This is how I'll get it done. Do it.'" Hamilton hit ticker: Through four games, outfielder Josh Hamilton has a four-game hitting streak. Hamilton went 2-for-3 with an RBI on Sunday. The 25-year-old is batting .533 (8-for-15) this spring and continues to impress during his comeback attempt from a near four-year layoff. "He can hit a little bit," Narron said. "He's very talented and I'm very happy for him. I know how hard he's worked. I'll have to be careful here and give him some time off." Injury report: Outfielder Ryan Freel was scratched from Sunday's lineup with a sore left hand and wrist. Freel was hurt when he fell down trying to catch a fly ball in the second inning of Saturday's game against the Twins. Tests ruled out anything serious. Bubba Crosby took Freel's place in the lineup and played right field. Hamilton was shifted to center field. Infielder Jeff Keppinger suffered a broken right ring finger when he was hit by an Allan Simpson pitch in the fifth inning. Keppinger, who was 6-for-8 (.750) this spring, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Pitcher Bronson Arroyo was scratched from Sunday's 'B' game against the Pirates because of flu-like symptoms. If Arroyo feels better on Monday, he could do some throwing on the side. Outfielder/first baseman Jeff Conine has been sidelined with a stiff lower back. "B" game results: The Reds took a 5-0 win over the Pirates in a six-inning "B" game played Sunday morning. Filling in for Arroyo, lefty Michael Gosling allowed one hit and one walk over two innings with three strikeouts. Reliever David Weathers made his spring debut, allowing one hit and two walks with a strikeout in one inning. Coming up: The Reds host the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET on Monday at Ed Smith Stadium. Paul Wilson is scheduled to start for Cincinnati against Jon Lieber. Kirk Saarloos and Mike Stanton are among those expected to follow Wilson.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.