Bailey earns Opening-Day start for Reds

Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart and pitcher Homer Bailey talk on the mound during a game against the Marlins on Friday, July 21, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart and pitcher Homer Bailey talk on the mound during a game against the Marlins on Friday, July 21, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Homer Bailey will get the ball to start the season on March 29 against the Washington Nationals.

Bryan Price informed the 31-year-old that he will be at the top of the young pitching staff that includes Sal Romano, who will pitch game four on April 2 against the Cubs.

“Homer is best suited for it,” Price said. “This is a guy who has pitched in postseason. He has pitched no-hitters. He has complete games (six). He has pitched on really good teams. He matches up with his experience to the top of the rotation compared to asking the young guys to take on a lot. We’re going to have a very young rotation. Homer will take this opportunity and handle it extremely well.”

The other three spots are believed to be Luis Castillo, who is lined up to pitch game two and Tyler Mahle for game three. Brandon Finnegan will likely be the fifth starter, but he is behind by a week after missing bullpens at his home in Texas before camp opened and a knot in his bicep in spring training that caused him to leave a start early.

The Reds will not need a fifth starter until April 9. Should Finnegan not be ready by then, Amir Garrett had a remarkable spring. Both are scheduled to pitch Saturday against San Diego.

Bailey was the Reds’ first pick in the 2004 draft out of LaGrange (Texas) High School. He has authored two no-hitters but was never named to start Opening Day.

The injury-riddled Bailey was limited to 26 starts over the last three seasons with 18 coming at the end of last season. Bailey was 6-9 after his return on June 24 last season with a 6.43 ERA but he was progressively better as the season came to a close.

This spring was the first since 2015 that Bailey had a full spring to get ready. Bailey had surgery three times on his forearm and elbow, including removing bone chips last spring.

Coming into the Friday start against Colorado, Bailey made four Cactus League starts and one controlled minor league start. His Cactus League numbers are 12 innings with 12 earned runs on 17 hits and two walks. Bailey struck out seven. His minor league stint lasted six innings with two runs on seven hits, one walk and nine strikeouts.

Romano pitched Thursday night against Texas. He allowed five runs in 15 innings, walking two while striking out 18.

“Romano pitched with great confidence all spring,” Price said. “For me it was his job to lose and he didn’t. He was thrilled. I think he was confident he would win a spot in the rotation.”

Castillo had only three Cactus League starts and missed time with the birth of his first child, a daughter. He went 8.1 innings, allowing three earned runs. Castillo was stretched out to five innings in a minor league game.

Mahle grabbed his spot in the rotation by making significant improvements with his changeup and slider. He pitched 19 innings in five Cactus League appearances. Mahle allowed six earned runs on 10 hits and three walks. He struck out 15.

• The Reds released Oliver Perez on Thursday morning. He was signed to provide the Reds with a left-handed specialist. An injury to Michael Lorenzen, who will probably not be able to pitch by opening day, caused the Reds to scrap the plan.

“I couldn’t see how we could have the luxury of a lefty specialist,” Price said. “We need more bullpen pitchers who pitch multiple innings.”

Vance Worley, who signed a minor league contract, pitched three innings Thursday night against Texas. He allowed one run.

Worley, 30, is a veteran who has 97 career starts and 66 relief appearances in the big leagues. He has a clause in his contract that states he can be a free agent on Saturday, if he is not chosen for the Reds’ roster, he can elect free agency.

Last season Worley started 12 games and appeared in relief in 12 games for the Miami Marlins. He was 2-6 with a 6.91 ERA. In Goodyear, he has pitched in seven Cactus League games. Worley allowed five earned runs in his first appearance on February 25 but allowed just three earned runs in 10.1 innings since.

“It is going to come down to the wire with these last couple spots in the bullpen,” Price said. “We’d like to define our club before we leave for Texas (Sunday afternoon). Vance gives us options, long relief. He has an out on the 25th. If he makes the club, it is a non-issue. If he doesn’t he can see what is out there or choose to stay in the organization.”

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