SAN FRANCISCO -- Apparently the summer sequel season had another thumbs-up performance left for audiences to enjoy. Call it Homer Bailey 2: The Return. The 21-year-old top Reds prospect pitched to some rave reviews during Cincinnati's 4-2 win over the Giants on Thursday night at AT&T Park. "He looked pitcher-ish," interim manager Pete Mackanin said, creating a new adjective. "I was very happy with what I saw tonight. I'm sure he came out of it with a positive attitude. It bodes well for the rest of the season."
Bailey (3-2) hadn't pitched in a game of any type since Aug. 30 for Class A Sarasota while he worked his way back from a groin injury. Since then, it's just been simulated games. No rust, no fuss. The right-hander pitched superbly for 5 2/3 innings and earned the victory with one earned run and three hits allowed, while walking one and striking out three. "It felt good to be out there," Bailey said. "It had been a long time since I had been in a game. That much time off, I'm pleased I had that success. I had good defense behind me, too." In the first inning, Bailey (3-2) gave up a one-out single and a walk. It set up the Giants' first run, a two-out rolling RBI single up the middle by Nate Schierholtz. Bailey admitted to having some butterflies early on. "You get nervous before every game," he said. "But this is the first game back, and it's been a long time since I played at this level." After Schierholtz's hit, the Giants were stymied entirely as Bailey retired 15 in a row. The next hit didn't come until Randy Winn's two-out double in the sixth. It was Bailey's final batter and his 80th pitch. Bill Bray finished the inning. Bailey threw 90 pitches in his last simulated action on Saturday. "It's not real competition," Mackanin pointed out. "It was an on-the-side type thing. We felt it was a good idea to get him out of there on a positive note and not overextend him." Bailey did a nice job changing speeds, something the organization has tried to push him to do since making him its first-round Draft pick in 2004. His fastball velocity remained mainly in the 91-93 mph range on Thursday, with several at 95 mph and one offering topping out at 97. "I didn't see that same velocity last time," said Mackanin, who saw Bailey pitch only once after becoming manager. The rookie was sent back to Triple-A Louisville on July 7 after posting a 6.99 ERA through six big league starts. Pitching with a sore groin in his last few big league starts explained why Bailey's velocity had dipped into the low 90s and high 80s. He spent July 19-Aug. 23 on Louisville's disabled list. "It makes a big difference when you can go out there and pitch without feeling anything. That's key," Bailey said. "Ask any player as an athlete or competitor, you want to be out there even if you're hurting like hell. Once it gets to a certain point, you have to start using your noggin a little bit. It's just good to be back with the club and healthy again. We'll see if I can help out." Bailey made two starts for Sarasota but when the Minor League season ended, he was declared ineligible to pitch in the Florida State League playoffs. Having nowhere else to start, he worked in simulated action supervised by Sarasota pitching coach Tom Brown and pitching coordinator Mack Jenkins. "You don't have the adrenaline, you don't have the fans, you don't have the guys around you," Bailey said. "More than anything, you can kind of get the feel back when you're not in a game for as long as I was." Once the Reds decided not to give Kirk Saarloos another spot start, it lined up perfectly to bring Bailey back. "So far, looking at tonight's performance, the approach that [general manager Wayne Krivsky] took with him was a good one," Mackanin said. "Get him back working, get him positive, make him earn it back here. Hopefully, he learned something from his ordeal." Bailey also scored a run in the top of the fifth against Giants starter Matt Cain (7-16). Jeff Keppinger's single off second baseman Eugenio Velez's glove scored two runs. Leading off in the seventh, pinch-hitter and former Giant Jason Ellison hit his first homer as a Red on a first-pitch shot to left field to snap a 1-for-20 skid. Unlike Bailey's highly anticipated Major League debut back in June, this start lacked much buzz. Injuries kept Barry Bonds out of a Giants lineup that carried just three regulars, while Ken Griffey Jr. was also out hurt for the Reds. Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention, and it was a late start time for Reds fans in the Eastern time zone. Those who skipped viewing the game in favor of local news, David Letterman or infomercials missed out. "It wasn't Bonds, [Omar] Vizquel and the rest of the boys, but [Bailey] showed pretty good command of his fastball and breaking ball," Mackanin said. "He looked like he was confident. We were very happy with what we saw coming out of his hand."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.