CINCINNATI — It was less than 24 hours after Mike Leake was traded that his prime real estate space in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse was being claimed by Homer Bailey.
Bailey was moving his stuff into Leake’s vacated spot and when somebody said that Leake hadn’t even reached San Francisco yet and Bailey smiled and said, “Yep, the body isn’t even cold yet.”
WASN’T IT JUST a few years ago that Bailey was the baby of the staff? Now, at 29 he is the grizzled, wize-owled veteran on a staff of pitching infants.
There are now five rookies in the rotation while Bailey recovers from Tommy John surgery — Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, David Holmberg and Keyvius Sampson.
BEFORE SATURDAY’S game, manager Bryan Price dropped the mantel of leadership among the starting pitchers on Bailey’s shoulders.
“Homer will be coming back (early next season) to help stabilize a group of young guys and he will play an important role in the development of this staff. It will help the cohesivness to have somebody on top of it that understands leadership and is willing to create a good environment on how to set standards and how to work,” said Price
Bailey laughed out loud when told about Price’s grand scheme and said, “That’s a dangerous course. I might be able to impart some knowledge, but imparting wisdom might be a stretch.”
It isn’t a stretch at all. There is nobody in the Reds clubhouse any more intelligent, nobody in the clubhouse has gone from zero 100 in the maturation process while in the big leagues and there is no one in the clubhouse who has gone through more ups and downs.
AND NOW HE is ‘The Guy.’
“It is funny how the game works, man,” said Bailey. “In less than three years they took apart a rotation that had four guys throw 200 innings and all five of us had sub-4.00 earned run averages (Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos and Bailey) and all the incredible things we did.”
As far as sharing his past experiences, Bailey said, “There has been a lot, I can tell you that. But, yes, I think I can help, I really think so.”
BAILEY SAYS THAT he has closely watched and observed what the Kiddie Korps does on and off the field and he likes what he sees.
“I see these guys coming up as starters like DeSclafani, Iglesias, Jon Moscot, Lorenzen — these guys are already way ahead of the curve. They have a lot of talent, they have a lot of drive to work hard and compete. To me, all the things that you can’t teach somebody they already have.
“So now it is just stuff that pertains to the game,” Bailey added. “For two innings last night in the dugout Moscot and I sat and talked pitching mechanics the whole time. That kind of stuff is good. We can debate, we can cuss and discuss all kinds of things.
BAILEY BELIEVES HE will be in for a fun ride as a guru and guidance counselor, “Because of these guys. They are all really good guys, they want to win. I haven’t seen a single one who I could say is lazy and who doesn’t work out or do all the things they need to do.”
Bailey looks up and down the current rotation and what he sees coming up through the system and believes the best is going to come and come fast.
“There is no doubt these guys are going to take their lumps,” he said. “You see DeSclafani and Lorenzen going through them. Hey, and it isn’t like I’m winning 25 games a year. I’m still learning myself. But the rotation, for years to come, barring injury, will be a great asset.”
KEYVIUS SAMPSON, a 24-year-old reight hander claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres organization in January, makes his major league starting debut Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He made his major league debut Thursday with one perfect relief inning against the Pirates, striking out two.
Of the Five-Rookie Rotation, Price says, “It is challenging for these young guys. They come in and they are not the fifth starter with four veterans guys out there sharing all their savvy and pitching intellect. They are not watching the pitcher in front of them be a six or eight or ten-year veteran you can learn from just by watching them pitch before you do.
“After the trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, we’re in the situation where a rookie is watching a rookie ahead of him who was watching a rookie ahead of him,” said Pricel “It is a unique dynamic and puts a lot of responsibility on our coaching staff. We have to be very sensitive that these guys are in a unique situation and to make it a growth opportunity while staying competitive.”
ANY DOUBT THAT Reds manager Bryan Price is a former pitching coach can be eliminated when one walks into his office. There are four pictures of former Reds players hanging on the walls. They are Don Gullett, Gary Nolan, Jack Billingham and Jim Maloney. All pitchers.