Homer Bailey set to make milestone start for Reds on Monday

It’s taken longer than expected, but if nothing gets in the way, Homer Bailey will make his 200th career start for the Reds on Monday against the New York Mets.

Bailey, who turned 32 on Thursday, seemed poised to reach that level much earlier after the 2013 season, when he made 32 starts. That was one season after he tied for the National League lead with 33 starts, helping Cincinnati win a second Central Division title in three seasons.

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Two surgical procedures, including a “Tommy John” operation in May of 2015, limited the right-handed Texas native to a combined 31 starts over the next three seasons and the start of his 2017 season was delayed by a third procedure performed in February. He returned to make 18 starts over the second half of the season and was able to work through a normal off-season well enough to make his first career Opening Day start this year.

Interim manager Jim Riggleman was surprised to learn that Bailey was reaching 200 starts, and he was left wondering what might have been.

“I didn’t know that,” he said before Sunday’s series finale against the Miami Marlins. “He’s been around a long time. He’d probably have 250 or 275 if not … That’s a big one.”

That number of starts would have left Bailey closing in on the franchise’s top five in career starts. Bucky Walters, ace of the 1939 NL champions and 1940 World Series champions, currently ranks fifth on the list with 296 starts, two fewer than No. 4 Tom Browning. The leader is Baseball Hall-of-Famer Eppa Rixey, who racked up 356 with the Reds from 1921 through 1933.

Bailey, who pitched no-hitters at Pittsburgh in 2012 and against San Francisco at Great American Ball Park in 2013, is 0-4 in seven starts this season, dropping his career record to 66-67. He had a 3.42 earned-run average after logging a season-high seven innings in Cincinnati’s 3-2 loss to St. Louis on April 15, but a 6.89 ERA over his last three starts has pushed the overall 2018 figure to 4.81.

If Riggleman sees a difference from the beginning of the season to more recent times for Bailey, whose six-year, $105 million contract extends through next season with a mutual option for 2020, the interim manager wasn’t saying.

“Homer’s become more of a pitcher since he came back from the surgeries,” Riggleman said, specifically mentioning fastball velocity. “He used to be in the high 90s (miles per hour). Now, he’s more around 92. He’s getting more groundballs and fewer strikeouts. He’s throwing a lower number of pitches and pitching to contact more than before the surgeries, and that’s probably a good thing.”

Monster Mets: Bailey is 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA in six career starts against the Mets, whose .646 winning percentage at Great American Ball Park is the highest of any NL team. New York goes into Monday's 7:10 p.m. game with a 31-17 record over the facility's first 15 seasons.

The Reds snapped an overall 14-game losing streak against New York with a 14-4 win last August 29 in Cincinnati.

Costly mistake: Right-hander Austin Brice knew as soon as he turned around that he'd messed up.

Left-handed batter J.B. Shuck led off Saturday’s eighth inning with a grounder to the right side. Brice turned to follow the ball without making a move to head to first base. When he saw that first baseman Joey Votto had left his position while trying to field the ball, Brice dropped into a full-fledged crouch of shame on the mound with his head down and his back to the plate as Shuck crossed first base.

Instead of one out and nobody on, Brice hit the next batter to put runners first and second with nobody out. An out later, Starling Castro drove in the lead runner with a double.

Kevin Shackelford came in to get Cameron Maybin to ground out to a drawn-in infield, preventing a run, but that was just the second out of the inning instead of the third and Brian Anderson cashed in the fundamental blunder with a two-run single.

Whether the inning would have proceeded exactly that way had Brice covered first for an out is unknown, but he and everybody else knew he’d made a mistake.

“You’ve got to break for the bag,” Riggleman said. “He had a lapse there.”


MONDAY’S GAME

Mets at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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