Cincinnati Reds: 2012 Is Defining Year for Starter Homer Bailey

Dan AllenCorrespondent IIMarch 19, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 26:  Homer Bailey #34 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch against the New York Mets in the second inning during a game at Citi Field on September 26, 2011 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

For a pitcher who first debuted as a 21-year-old for the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, Homer Bailey's career as a major league pitcher is still in a worrying state of limbo.

After stints with the club over the past five seasons and 78 starts, Bailey is entrenched in a battle for the fifth starter role this spring. Bailey has only amassed 100 innings pitched in three of those five seasons, with an unimpressive 4.89 ERA to boot.

Bailey improved in 2011 with career highs in several categories, including strikeouts and wins. Bailey finished the season with a 9-7 record and career lows in ERA (4.43) and WHIP (1.28), but still shows much room for improvement. He gave up a career high 18 home runs and in general gave up a tremendous amount of fly balls (0.87 GO/AO) in the homer-happy Great American Ball Park.

So far in spring training Bailey has not helped his case. A 7.15 ERA through four starts will not impress Reds management to keep the former first-round pick on the roster.

Cuban fire-baller Aroldis Chapman has been converted to starter and is making a strong case for the rotation spot. Veteran Jeff Francis was also brought in as a non-roster invitee to vie for the roster spot.

Cincinnati has invested too much in Chapman to keep him in the bullpen or leave him in the minors for too long. Chapman has come on strong this spring with a solid 2.57 ERA through seven innings.

Francis is also making an impression, with a 2.25 ERA through eight innings pitched. Even if not kept on the roster following spring training, Francis may serve as veteran insurance in the minors.

For Bailey to remain on the roster, he must improve upon his performance thus far in the next couple weeks. How he performs in his remaining starts this spring may determine his future with the club.

Even if Bailey cracks the rotation, an improvement on his 2011 numbers is a must if he is to remain in Cincinnati. This includes less walks, lower pitch counts so that he can go deeper into games, decreased home runs and most importantly less runs given up.

Bailey has spent an extensive amount of time moving between the majors and minors since his 2007 debut, and needs to step up now before Cincinnati moves on without him.