Tom Usher: Bailey's transformation striking, but he's still work in progress

July 4, 2013

It’s been amazing.

It’s truly unbelievable, really.

The transformation in Homer Bailey’s pitching approach the last two seasons has been something few could have ever predicted.

In fact, somewhere during the 2011 season, I had more than enough of Homer Bailey’s struggles and was advocating trading him.

I didn’t care where he went or what the Reds received in return.

Get him out of Cincinnati.

From 2007 to 2011, his approach was to throw his 96-98 mph fastball as often as he wanted, wherever he wanted. His control was sporadic, at best, as his ERAs went from 5.76, 7.93, 4.53, 4.46 and then 4.43 in 2011.

Some around the Reds and the many media members felt he was not receptive to coaching. He was immature and wanted to do it his way.

He was selected in the first round (seventh pick overall) in the 2004 draft out of LaGrange High School (Texas), where he compiled a 41-4 record and 0.98 ERA. He struck out 536 in 298 innings.

He was hard-headed. He would do it his way.

Now, after his second no-hitter on Tuesday night against the Giants, Bailey has officially turned the corner in his professional career.

Last year he began using the advice from his coaches, including pitching coach Bryan Price. He started backing off his fastball (from 97 to 93 or 94) and began throwing more strikes. He also began spotting his fastball, up down, in and out and no longer fired it as hard as he could down the heart of the plate.

Bailey has worked hard with his slider and curve and began to throw those consistently for strikes.

The result last year was he set career highs for wins (13-10) and lowest ERA (3.68). He also had career highs for innings (208) and strikeouts (168).

Finally, Bailey got it.

He eased off his blazing fastball at times for better control and command.

He threw his first no hitter Sept. 28 last year 1-0 at Pittsburgh.

So far he had been a little up and down this year. His ERA was 2.81 in April, 4.75 in May and 3.97 in June.

For this year, Bailey is 5-6 with a 3.57. In 111 innings, he has 111 strikeouts and only 26 walks.

Tuesday Bailey dominated the Giants in his no-hitter. He gave up one walk and struck out nine. He threw 109 pitches, 74 for strikes. Bailey got eight ground outs and 10 fly outs. Of the 28 batters he faced, he threw 18 first-pitch strikes. Overall, he threw 67.9 percent strikes.

Those numbers would not have been possible for Bailey two years ago.

It was a night to remember, as he became only the second Reds’ pitcher, after Johnny Vander Meer and the great Jim Maloney, to log two no-hitters.

Then, after the game, the trouble started brewing.

In a postgame interview with Fox Sports Ohio, he let slip the magic word when he was asked whether he had to re-focus after his walk, which broke up the perfect game.

“It’s a (blanking) walk,” Bailey said. “You guys up there (the media, especially radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman in the pressbox) think this game is easy. It’s not easy.”

I have no real problem with Bailey emotionally letting a magic word slip out. But calling out the media after his no-hitter is something else.

It wasn’t the time or the place.

He then refused to do a postgame interview with Brennaman, who had been highly critical of Bailey’s awful career from 2007 to 2011.

The day after the no-hitter, instead of WLW radio celebrating the no-no, it was running congratulations commercials to Ryan Hanigan for catching his second no-hitter, with no mention of Bailey.

Bailey has come light years as a pitcher.

But he still has plenty of maturing to do off the field.

Calling out the media was not a good idea. It was his right not to do an interview, although I don’t believe it was a good move for him.

The radio station’s conduct was juvenile, but hardly surprising.

Here’s hoping if there is another no-hitter in Bailey’s future, he learns to handle it a little bit differently.