Homer Bailey hasn’t been seen on a major-league mound much since the end of 2014, but he looked like himself Wednesday night at Fifth Third Field.
Despite multiple elbow surgeries, the 31-year-old said he hasn’t changed his style of pitching, which he described bluntly after six shutout innings against the Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers affiliate).
“Throw the hell out of it and hope they get out,” Bailey said.
But if that’s still his approach, he does feel like he has better command than he did as a fireballing prospect who was the Reds’ No. 1 pick in 2004 out of La Grange, Texas, and made a stop in Dayton a year later.
“My command’s been better,” Bailey said. “It’s just been such a long process. As long as you’re still trying to improve your craft, even at the times when you can’t throw or you don’t feel very good throwing, then you start to learn a lot just by watching a lot and you just start picking up things here and there because you’re forced to watch because you can’t play.”
Bailey pitched six strong innings against Great Lakes.
He allowed only one hit, a double to right-center field in the sixth. The only other Loon to reach base was via hit batter in the first inning.
Bailey struck out six and did not walk a batter. He threw 76 pitches, including 54 strikes.
Bailey has struggled with elbow problems the last two seasons, making just eight starts since August 2014.
He has been on the disabled list all season after elbow surgery in February but was also impressive in a rehab start last week for Pensacola, the Reds’ Double-A affiliate. He pitched five shutout innings and allowed just three hits vs. the Mississippi Braves. He threw 64 pitches.
He said he felt better in that start but was happy to check off another box on his journey back to the majors Wednesday night.
Although the Reds have lost their last six games, they are still only 4 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central.
Bailey is anxious to be able to help them get back on track and chase a postseason berth.
“It means a lot to me,” he said of seeing how competitive the team has been despite a young lineup and major issues with the rotation.
“A lot of those are guys I’ve been playing with a long time, and just keeping up you can see the way they’re battling day in and day out. The bullpen has done an outstanding job. The hitters have done an outstanding job. You know the starters are grinding trying to figure everything out, so just to be prepared to be back up there and be around (manager Bryan Price) and (pitching coach Mack Jenkins) and everybody and start playing again.”
The next step is a return to Cincinnati, where he said he plans to throw a bullpen session this weekend when the team returns home from a winless West Coast trip.
Then if there are no setbacks, he will start a game for the Louisville Bats (Triple-A) on Monday.
Bailey is 60-54 with a 4.24 ERA in 10 seasons with the Reds, for whom he has pitched a pair of no-hitters.
As a teenager, he spent the 2005 season in Dayton, posting an 8-4 record in 21 starts for the Dragons. He had a 4.43 ERA in 103 2/3 innings, striking out 125 and walking 62 that season.
Bailey made his Reds debut in 2007, going 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA.
He also made a rehab appearance in Dayton in 2010, allowing three runs in four innings.