Homer Bailey and I had a bonding moment last season, following a rookie-like mistake on my part.
I approached the Reds pitcher prior to a late-season contest while working on NLDS preview stories for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I wasn't covering the Reds game that day so I had not glanced at the lineup. Bailey declined the interview, rather politely. I asked again stating that I just needed a moment of his time and Bailey again declined, this time less politely.
I finished up my other interviews, waltzed up to the press box and when I passed by the white board with that day's lineups I realized what I had done -- Bailey was the Reds starting pitcher. I had broken rule Numero Uno -- never talk to that day's starter. It was something I hadn't done in 16 years of covering baseball.
The next day I apologized to Bailey and we both got a good laugh out of it. "You probably thought I was one big SOB," Bailey said. "I was pretty sure you didn't know I was pitching".
The newest version of Bailey is in stark contrast to the one who at times was dubbed arrogant , stubborn, and uncoachable. It was the classic case of a young kid with immense talent who spent his life being told how great he was. A No. 1 draft choice with cash in his pocket and plenty of adulation to go around. This attitude bled into his pitching too. Behind in the count in a tough situation, 'Hmm, I think I'll just blow you away with my fastball. Worked in high school'.
But Bailey's two starts since being reinstated from the disabled list are a clear indication of his maturation. He doesn't have his best fastball, so he's adjusting. He's slowed his mechanics, and calmed his demeanor on the mound. He's a pitcher now, not a thrower.
And he's listening, mostly to Reds pitching coach Bryan Price. The advice is paying off. Bailey's arrogance has evolved into confidence and resolve. And the Reds are the benefactors.