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Bailey hopes healthy spring brings return to form

Right-hander had 6.43 ERA in 18 starts last season after returning from elbow surgery
MLB.com @m_sheldon

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds pitcher Homer Bailey is not getting ahead of himself. Bailey, a veteran of two no-hitters but three elbow surgeries, felt good throughout the offseason and rolled into Spring Training healthy. It's something Bailey doesn't take for granted.

"It was definitely a change of pace, that's for sure," the right-hander said. "As far as goals, it's get through camp and start the season. Then take the ball every fifth day."

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds pitcher Homer Bailey is not getting ahead of himself. Bailey, a veteran of two no-hitters but three elbow surgeries, felt good throughout the offseason and rolled into Spring Training healthy. It's something Bailey doesn't take for granted.

"It was definitely a change of pace, that's for sure," the right-hander said. "As far as goals, it's get through camp and start the season. Then take the ball every fifth day."

Bailey had surgery to repair a torn flexor mass tendon in 2014 and Tommy John surgery in 2015 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Just before camp opened last year, he needed a surgery in the same elbow to remove bone chips in his throwing arm.

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Following his June 24 debut last season, Bailey was 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA in 18 starts.

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"I think the repetition, the ability to have a normal offseason, a regular long-toss plan, have a normal Spring Training will go a long way in him regaining his status as one of the better starters in our mix," Reds manager Bryan Price said.

Ten years ago, in 2007, Bailey was the top prospect in Reds camp and made a highly-anticipated big league debut. By 2012, he pitched 208 innings with a league-leading 33 starts and then 209 innings and 32 starts in '13.

Now 31, Bailey is one of three players on the projected 25-man roster over 30 along with Joey Votto and new signing Cliff Pennington. Bailey is a throwback of sorts. As players frequently become more open on social media about their personal and professional lives, Bailey avoids it altogether. He's not on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

"I just don't see the benefit to it," Bailey said. "The small circle of people I share things with are people you generally care about. If you've got a million followers on Twitter or Instagram, 99 percent of them, you don't know. More than anything, it leaves yourself open to things that are not good as opposed to the things that are good."

"You take a look around this clubhouse, everyone is one their phone somewhere. That's not something that I came up with. It's not something I always use as part of my daily life."

Video: MIL@CIN: Bailey strikes out Thames in the 5th

It doesn't mean Bailey has technophobia. An avid reader, he travels with an iPad so he can devour books. The Texas native did his offseason workouts in San Antonio while also finding time for two trips to British Columbia, Canada. But he kept it out of the spotlight.

"Other than my trips, I was in the middle of nowhere for quite a lot of time," Bailey said. "I've got property in south and central Texas. When you have all of that, something always needs your attention."

Bailey also has a passion for riding horses. Once big on roping, he's now become more interested in working cow horse competitions. It involves reining and herding cows, where both horse and rider are judged. He keeps his horses outside of Cincinnati during the season and has them in Arizona during camp.

"Pretty much most days, that's where I'm at as soon as I leave here," Bailey said. "It's actually a lot of fun."

At the complex, Bailey is continuing his work on trying to rein the command of his pitches -- something that often eluded him last season. For many patients of Tommy John surgery, it's the last part that comes back into form.

"You see hitters take time off and they come back, it takes them a while to find their swing. It's no different with pitchers," Bailey said. "Finding your tempo, your delivery or release point and being able to do it out of the wind-up, out of the stretch with guys on in tight games or whatever the case, the more you're exposed to it, the better off you are."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey