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Reds tab Bailey for first Opening Day start

Veteran righty has missed past 3 openers with elbow injuries
MLB.com @m_sheldon

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reading the tea leaves for much of the spring, and after a couple of injuries to others, it seemed to line up for Homer Bailey to be the Reds' Opening Day starter. Manager Bryan Price made it official on Friday.

Bailey will start when Cincinnati opens the season against the Nationals on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reading the tea leaves for much of the spring, and after a couple of injuries to others, it seemed to line up for Homer Bailey to be the Reds' Opening Day starter. Manager Bryan Price made it official on Friday.

Bailey will start when Cincinnati opens the season against the Nationals on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

View Full Game Coverage

"He's best-suited for it," Price said. "This is a guy who has pitched in the postseason. He's pitched no-hitters, complete games and he's pitched on really good teams. He's best-suited to match up with everybody else's experienced, top-of-the-rotation starter compared to asking the young guys to take it on."

Reds Spring Training info

It will be the first time that Bailey, an 11-year veteran, will have the honor of opening the season on the mound.

"Cool," Bailey replied after pitching six innings in Cincinnati's 8-2 loss to the Rockies.

Video: CIN@COL: Bailey gets Story looking in the 2nd inning

Bailey hasn't been available the past three Opening Days because of elbow injuries.

"It's not something I've ever thought of," Bailey said. "I mean, if you climb Mount Everest, nobody talks about the first step. You talk about getting to the top. It's more through the course of the season that I look forward to than just the first one."

Price didn't name the rest of the rotation order, but it's likely that Bailey will be the lone veteran in the starting five. It's expected that Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano and either Brandon Finnegan or Amir Garrett will comprise the rest of the rotation.

Romano was informed by Price that he made the team after his start on Thursday against the Rangers. In his five Cactus League starts, the right-hander posted a 3.00 ERA with 15 hits, two walks and 18 strikeouts over 15 innings.

Price said Romano would start the fourth game of the regular season on April 2, vs. the Cubs.

"He was thrilled," Price said. "He pitched with great confidence all spring, and for me, it was his job to lose. And he didn't lose it."

On March 11, the Reds revealed that Anthony DeSclafani sustained a strained left oblique, and it will likely be several weeks before he can resume throwing. On the same day, Finnegan experienced spasms in his left forearm and was pulled from a start. The left-hander is now playing catch-up and could start when the fifth spot comes around for the first time on April 9. If Finnegan is not ready, Garrett would likely be prepared to make the start.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"We're going to have a very young rotation," Price said.

Bailey, 31, was Cincinnati's first-round pick in the 2004 Draft (seventh overall) and debuted in '07. After initial struggles and some injuries, he came into his own in 2012-13 by pitching at least 200 innings and making at least 30 starts in each season. Bailey pitched two no-hitters, one in each of those seasons, and was signed to a six-year, $105 million contract before the '14 season.

Elbow injuries have decimated Bailey's career. After tearing his right flexor mass tendon in August 2014 and having surgery, he was limited to eight starts from 2015-16. In April 2015, Bailey needed Tommy John surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament. Before last Spring Training, he had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips and did not fare well upon returning, going 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA in 18 starts.

Bailey, who has a 7.50 ERA in five Cactus League starts, reported feeling good after throwing 83 pitches vs. Colorado with three runs, nine hits, one walk and two strikeouts. All the runs scored in the fourth inning on back-to-back homers by Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez.

"The last few years have been a little rough," Bailey said. "[The Opening Day start] beats still having stitches in your arm at that time or stuff like that. Yeah, it's definitely better than that."

Bullpen battle
During Thursday's 7-6 win over the Rangers, non-roster reliever Vance Worley turned in three innings with one run, three hits and one walk. After initially being hit hard, Worley has pitched well in recent outings. In Friday's game, Zack Weiss gave up two runs with a hit and two walks -- his third straight game with runs allowed. Kevin Quackenbush gave up three runs Friday -- his first earned runs allowed all spring.

Another roster contender, Cody Reed, pitched five innings in a Minor League game on Friday and gave up three runs (two earned), six hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

"It's going to come down to the wire with the last couple of spots in the bullpen, it really is," Price said.

Up next
Finnegan will start Saturday vs. the Padres at 4:05 p.m. ET (listen live on Gameday Audio). It's an important outing for the left-hander to show he's on his way to being ready for the season.

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