CINCINNATI — After two elbow surgeries in eight months, Homer Bailey is finally getting back to normal. For Bailey, normal means deer hunting, calf roping and living his Texas-ranch lifestyle.
“It’s the first time in a while I do stuff without thinking about my elbow,” Bailey said at Redsfest Saturday. “Does that make any sense? Anybody who’s had any surgery of any kind knows.
“I don’t think about the elbow. I can hang tree stands. I can climb up in a tree. I can rope. I can grab feed bags and hay bales. Do whatever and I don’t think about it.”
Reds manager Bryan Price says that’s a big step.
“Just to be able to go home and say, 'I don't have to do anything for a month or six weeks, then I can start doing some cardio, and then I can get into the weight room, and then I can begin my throwing program.' That in and of itself will be a benefit to him,” Price said.
The next step is a bigger one. Throwing a baseball at 97 mph is a different kind of test for the elbow. The Reds need Bailey, the 30-year-old right hander, to be able to do that every fifth day for them to have any kind of chance of improving on last season’s record.
Bailey has been limited to 33 innings over the last two seasons by his elbow problems. Bailey’s arm troubles coincided with the signing of a six-year, $105 million contract. That’s made him a target of fans at times.
It’s rough being the guy in the middle of it — no matter what you’re being paid. How’d he get through it?
“Good bourbon,” he joked.
But, on a more serious note, he compared himself to Devin Mesoraco.
“What he’s going through with the hip and shoulder is exactly the same thing I’ve gone through with my elbow,” Bailey said. “It ain’t easy. I’ll tell you that right now. To take off two years and still try to stay engaged and motivated, that's hard.
“It’s just part of it.”
Bailey showed glimpses of his old self last year — he retired 15 straight batters in one of his six starts — before he had a series of setbacks from Tommy John surgery. He made his last appearance on Aug. 28.
But he’s healthy now — at least to live the rancher’s life. He’ll begin his normal offseason throwing program next week. He’ll come up with a plan with Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins once spring training starts.
“I’m well-rested,” he said. “We’ve got a longer spring training. I know there’s going to have to be adjustments made. That’s something we’ll have to map out together.”
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.