Reds notes: Bailey takes big step toward return

Reds pitcher Homer Bailey watches a game against the Cubs on Friday, April 22, 2016, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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Reds pitcher Homer Bailey watches a game against the Cubs on Friday, April 22, 2016, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Reds manager Bryan Price occasionally talks about injured players “checking off boxes” as they work their way through the recovery and rehab process.

Homer Bailey checked off a big one Tuesday. Bailey, who turned 31 on Wednesday, threw off a bullpen mound for the first time as he works his way back from February arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow — the third procedure performed on his right arm in 30 months.

Bailey threw 23 pitches, all fastball, Price reported.

“He felt very good through the process,” Price said. “We have a calendar for him. Right now, he’ll throw a bullpen every third day and build him up. He’ll throw some live batting practice and at least one simulated game before we send him for some rehab starts. He’s been long tossing, so we don’t anticipate any pain. We expect him to have some throwing soreness.”

Bailey, who’s been limited to 31 starts in the three full seasons since signing in February 2014 a six-year, $105 million contract that extends through 2019 with a mutual option for 2020, still is projected to return in mid- to late-June, Price said, adding a caveat.

“Yes, without a hitch,” he said. “It’s a loosely written calendar. A setback would compromise that schedule.”

Small box: Speaking of checking off boxes, catcher Devin Mesoraco checked off a small one Wednesday when he started a second consecutive game for the first time since being activated from the disabled list last Thursday.

Price didn’t consider the step a big one for Mesoraco, who played in 39 games, with 18 starts, over the previous two seasons while dealing with surgical procedures on both hips and his left shoulder.

“He’s done this,” Price pointed out. “One of the boxes we checked off in his rehab was back-to-back nine-inning starts. He’s been conditioned for this, so it’s not a big box to check off. One of the things we wanted him to do in his first 10 games is catch all five (starting pitchers), so we could set up at least a 50-50 workload with (Tucker Barnhart).”

Barnhart has performed more than capably as the primary starter in Mesoraco’s absence, hitting .252 over 81 games in 2015 and .257 with seven home runs and 51 runs batted in last season over 115 games. Barnhart was batting .269 with three RBIs in 21 games through Tuesday. His effectiveness allows Price and the Reds to be patient with Mesoraco, a 2014 National League All-Star.

“Certainly, we’d love to see Devin return to his All-Star form, but that’s not going to organically happen,” Price said. “If it’s a timeshare with Tucker, then it’s a timeshare with Tucker. If it becomes a 60-40 thing, then it becomes a 60-40 thing.”

Rough stretch: Right-handed pitcher Blake Wood allowed one walk in 9 2/3 innings over his first 11 relief appearances of the season. He had yielded five in two innings over his last two outings, including three and a wild pitch in 1 1/3 innings in Tuesday's 12-3 loss to the Pirates.

Price considers it the pitching version of a slump.

“Yesterday, he was erratic,” the former pitching coach said. “The overall pitch quality is not as good, but his stuff is good, He hasn’t been as acute with his control.

“It’s probably more of just a stretch for him. I don’t expect it to last all season.”

Last of four: Right-hander Tim Adleman is Cincinnati's scheduled starter in Thursday's finale of the four-game series against Pittsburgh. Adleman is 0-1 with a 4.70 earned-run average, but he went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings over two starts against the Pirates last season. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA and already has two complete games, starts for Pittsburgh. In 16 starts since joining the Pirates last August 1, he has five complete games and four walks.

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