The last time Cincinnati Reds starter Homer Bailey faced the Boston Red Sox was 2008, which was also the last time the Reds and Red Sox played against each other. Bailey was then a 22-year-old phenom in his second year with the Reds and making just the 12th start of his young career, as he was beginning in earnest to try to live up to his billing as the seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft for the Reds.
That first start against the Red Sox turned out badly for Bailey, with five earned runs and three homers served in just 2.1 innings. Then the rest of Bailey’s short-lived 2008 season turned out even worse: a 7.93 ERA in eight starts before he was mercifully optioned back to the minors.
So how much has changed for Bailey, now that he has taken another crack at the Red Sox almost a full six years later? Two no-hitters for one, and back-to-back years of more than 200 innings pitched with a sub-4.00 ERA. And then there’s the money: $105 million in a six-year contract extension signed before the 2014 season started.
Unfortunately for the Reds and their fans, Bailey has struggled to live up to that contract so far this season. He somehow managed to register a quality start against the Red Sox on Tuesday night despite allowing 10 base runners in six innings, but the less-than-spectacular outing was just the latest example of Bailey not completely figuring out how to pitch effectively on a consistent basis.
His inconsistency on the mound isn’t a matter of stuff, but it is a huge matter of lack of command and the overall lack of execution. At some point, the issue has to be more reflective of intelligence and maturity than anything else.
Undoubtedly, the dominant Bailey will show up at some time during the 2014 season, and the great promise of a fully-developed pitcher in his prime will materialize in glimpses. However, the pedestrian outing that Bailey had on Tuesday against the Red Sox and the bad stretch (5.36 ERA in seven starts) that he has had at the start of this season will continue to remind the Reds that Bailey just doesn’t seem quite capable yet of putting it all together.
His ability says he should, but the Reds are still waiting.