In a series where most of the news for the Cincinnati Reds has been good, the team suffered an injury blow during Thursday afternoon’s game against the Chicago Cubs when starting pitcher Homer Bailey tried to deliver a pitch, stopped his motion, dropped the ball and walked off the mound. Bailey was immediately removed from the game with what was reported as soreness in his knee.
The good news for the Reds comes on several fronts. No matter the result of Thursday’s game with the Cubs, Cincinnati had already won the first four games of the rare five-game set, keeping them right in the race in the tough National League Central. In addition, it isn’t as if Bailey suffered an arm injury, or worse, the dreaded “elbow soreness” that leads to an MRI that later leads to Tommy John Surgery, which is becoming an epidemic in baseball this year.
Beyond that, the Reds are well-equipped to handle matters if the knee pain causes Bailey to go to the Disabled List and miss a few starts. Bailey is clearly no better than Cincinnati’s No. 4 starter on a roster blessed with six starting pitchers. With Mat Latos having returned and pitching well (2-1 in five starts with a 2.41 ERA), the Reds could use him at four and use a call-up from Class AAA as the fifth starter. Tony Cingrani would be the likely candidate, had he not recently landed on the Disabled List at the Reds’ affiliate in Louisville. Even if another call-up had to be used (such as Chien-Ming Wang, who is 8-5 with a 3.57 ERA at AAA), the advantage there being with days off on occasion, Cincinnati could skip its fifth starter all together and the loss of Bailey would be felt even less.
If Bailey is gone for the rest of the season, that changes the picture. With three solid starters in Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon, Bailey is the type of glue guy who could come in handy in the postseason, especially deep into a seven-game series either working as a spot starter or taking some innings in the bullpen, depending on the situation. The Reds are definitely a better team with Bailey in the rotation.
But thanks to their good core of top-three starters and Latos’ re-emergence, the Reds shouldn’t be too worried that Bailey missing a couple or even a few starts is going to end their bid to either win the National League Central or make an appearance in the Wild Card Game and beyond.