Bailey's stuff improves, but not luck

Bailey's stuff improves, but not luck

MILWAUKEE -- Homer Bailey, big league version 4.0, was at Miller Park on Friday, preparing to replace injured starter Aaron Harang for Sunday's game against the Brewers.

The Reds have to hope he fares better on the mound than he did at the tables.

"We went to the casino last night and it shows I have bad luck," Bailey said. "[Brewers outfielder Ryan] Braun put a $25 chip on No. 8 in roulette, nothing else. What happens? It hits. I'm sitting there donating money."

Luck has dried up in the box score as well. Bailey is winless at both Triple-A Louisville and in the Majors since April 27. He spoke about whether he was frustrated before the question was even finished.

"Very," Bailey blurted in. "When you're throwing better than you have in a long, long time and get a broken bat here, a miscommunication here -- you're getting L's and people are scoring runs and you're going, 'I'm throwing better than I ever have.' You start questioning yourself."

Unlike his first callup last summer, when he was the highly anticipated top prospect, Bailey is up on a need-basis because Harang is out with a strained right forearm. The 22-year-old Bailey was 4-7 with a 4.42 ERA in 16 starts for Louisville.

Of course, there's no guarantee that the right-hander will be better than during his previous three callups. But pitching coach Dick Pole supervised the pitcher's bullpen session on Friday and observed indications of progress since they last worked together.

"I saw better command," Pole said. "He hasn't got it down yet, but he's going in the right direction. It's a lot better than it was."

In three June starts with the Reds, Bailey was 0-3 with an 8.76 ERA, lasting just 12 1/3 innings combined. The reports have been mostly favorable since his return to Louisville, and he was selected for the promotion over Daryl Thompson.

Bailey's last start for Louisville on Monday was a loss in which he gave up four earned runs over six innings, with all four runs scoring in the sixth. But he tossed only 82 pitches, with no walks and eight strikeouts.

"I've been throwing a lot better," Bailey said. I'm cutting down on walks, [getting] more strikeouts and feeling better about the way I'm throwing."

Reports have indicated that Bailey is throwing his fastball with more velocity and using his offspeed pitches more frequently and effectively. Before he went back down to the Minors last month, he and Pole worked on his mechanics in the bullpen.

"Me and Dick worked with balance and stuff like that," Bailey said. "If you're more balanced, everything gets a little better."

Luck isn't on Bailey's side when it comes to his matchup, as he faces new Brewers lefty CC Sabathia. In two of Bailey's previous starts, he was opposed by Phillies ace Cole Hamels and Red Sox ace Josh Beckett. During Spring Training, he frequently drew top teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.

During his last callup for a day game, Bailey didn't get into Philadelphia until 1 a.m. This time, he's in town well ahead of his starting assignment, although the Reds have yet to make the roster move official.

"It was much better this time," Bailey said.

"It's also better to have him here so he can watch," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's definitely to his advantage to be the third pitcher in a three-game series. ... He can pick up as much information as possible."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.