Homer Bailey emerged from the clubhouse with his valuable right arm wrapped in a bandage to hold a bag of ice in place.
The Cincinnati Reds star pitcher had just completed a rehab start with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, lasting four innings in a 5-3 loss to the Jackson Generals Tuesday, and the media wanted to know how he felt after taking the next step on his road to recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“To say I feel stronger, it’s tough to say right now,” Bailey said. “But the rehab start definitely helps me. I feel fairly good.”
Bailey hasn’t played Major League Baseball for almost a year, going down with the torn ligament in his pitching elbow last spring.
His second rehab start of the season – the first was with Triple-A Louisville – started off in impressive fashion.
The first pitch Bailey threw registered at 94 miles per hour on the stadium radar. The next two pitches hit 95 mph. Just like that, Jackson’s first batter of the night struck out.
The entire outing wasn’t smooth sailing. The Blue Wahoos, one of the best defensive teams in the Southern League, committed five errors, including three in the third inning as the Generals went in front 5-2.
Bailey threw 30 pitches that inning. He finished the night throwing 78, allowing five runs on six hits. Only one run was earned. He struck out three and walked two.
“This start was a bit rougher,” Bailey said. “The one in Louisville went pretty smooth through the fourth inning. This one went four innings, but obviously, there were some obstacles.”
Pensacola committed only nine errors in its first 19 games. The five miscues on this night put Bailey in a difficult position.
“Home was put in a bad spot. The last thing you want a rehab guy coming off Tommy John to do is throw 30 pitches in an inning,” Blue Wahoos manager Pat Kelly said.
Overall, Kelly was impressed.
“For a guy who is less than 12 months off surgery, he was very impressive,” Kelly said.
Bailey, who is in the third year of a six-year $105 million deal with the Reds, joked tough nights happen sometimes for a defense. Still, he found a silver lining.
“Obviously, when you have longer innings after coming back from surgery and not competing for a year, it definitely makes things tougher on you,” Bailey said. “But it was good going through it. To have those extended innings tests you physically to make sure they won’t affect you down the road.”
Bailey is confident he will thrive again. This, after all, is a pitcher who was the seventh overall pick of the Reds in 2004 and has two no-hitters to his credit.
“Right now, the goal is just getting back to Cincinnati,” Bailey said. “I want to be back at Great American Ball Park and play at the Major League level again. Despite some of the downfalls we’ve had up there, we have held our own better than what people predicted. I want to see what I can do to help.”
Read more in the May 5 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.