Homer Bailey had a breakout season in 2012, and the Cincinnati Reds pitcher has not missed a beat in spring training.
The 26-year-old has been dominant in two starts this spring. As long as he can stay healthy, it looks like he is poised for another big year.
In his final eight starts of the year in 2012, Bailey had an ERA around 1.80 and was only getting stronger. He threw a no-hitter on September 28, didn't allow a run in his next start and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series. He allowed only one run on five hits in his final 20 innings of the season.
During that three-game stretch, he tied his career-high of 10 strikeouts in a game twice. In his final start of the regular season, he struck out six in four shutout innings before being taken out. The 26 strikeouts are the most he has compiled over three starts in his career.
Now he will have to find some way to follow up his best season.
He started off spring training in dominant fashion. The right-hander has gone three innings and allowed only one hit. In his second outing, he struck out five batters in two innings.
Bailey came up through the system as a strikeout pitcher, and he is finally starting to blow hitters away.
It's important to realize that it's only spring training, but his strong start is a positive sign. He was striking out hitters to end 2012, and he's kept it going during the spring.
Entering the season, Bailey will likely be the No. 4 starter. If he can keep missing bats, he will be better at Great American Ball Park than he was for most of last season. His home ERA was 5.16, so the strikeouts should help lower that number dramatically.
The numbers don't lie. Bailey has been nearly unhittable and has grown into the pitcher everyone expected him to be. The former first-round pick has learned to attack the zone and keep runners off the bases.
Bailey's strong spring is a promising sign, but he will need to keep it up when it matters in the regular season.