THE PIRATES hadjust lit up Homer Bailey for three runs and three hits in two innings in hisfirst exhibition start, but you never would have known it by the look on theface of the second-best pitching prospect in baseball, after Phil Hughes."I don't even know who I just faced," Bailey said a half hour later,already showered and looking as if he'd just awakened from a nap. "I'veheard of [Pittsburgh first baseman] Adam LaRoche, but not the other guys. Idon't watch much baseball on TV."
"Whynot?" he was asked.
Bailey shrugged."I see 160-some games a year [in person] already."
The laconic Texanwill take his laid-back attitude and free-and-easy throwing motion to Triple ALouisville to start the season. Like Hughes, he could be in the big leagues nottoo long after Memorial Day, especially given the dreadful state of theCincinnati rotation behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. First, however, the6'4", 205-pound Bailey must refine a new changeup to go along with his96-mph fastball and nasty slider.
What Bailey, whoin 2006 was 10--6 and held opponents to a .198 average in Class A and Double Acombined, quickly learned is that even journeyman major leaguers such as JoseHernandez are formidable foes. With a full count and two men on base in hisappearance against the Pirates, Bailey threw Hernandez a changeup, and it was agood one too. Hernandez fouled off the pitch, to the amazement of the youngpitcher, who had figured the hitter would never think change on a 3-and-2 pitchfrom a rookie. Hernandez lined the next pitch, a fastball, for a two-run doubleto right.
Not long afterbeing pulled, Bailey was talking hunting, the other sport he loves. He hastraveled all over North America hunting with a bow or a rifle, mostly forwhite-tailed deer, and this winter he went on an eight-day,survival-of-the-fittest trip to northern Saskatchewan, where the wind-chillsettled around --30 most days. "I'm a trophy hunter," he says. "Ilove the big game." For the Reds to be a contender this year, Bailey'sgoing to have to win a few of them.