Royals trust that pitcher Homer Bailey knows how to get most out of spring training

Pitcher Homer Bailey describes process that led him to Royals

Former Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey talks to reporters at the Royals facility in Surprise, Ariz., the week after signing with the team. During the offseason, Bailey had been traded to the LA Dodgers and then released.
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Former Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey talks to reporters at the Royals facility in Surprise, Ariz., the week after signing with the team. During the offseason, Bailey had been traded to the LA Dodgers and then released.

The Royals put a belief in Homer Bailey and his track record when they signed him last month. While he hasn’t thrown a pitch in a spring training game yet this season — that’s tentatively scheduled to change on Tuesday night — the organization has put faith in the 32-year-old.

He’s a new player to the organization and he hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game setting. Oh, and you’re closing in on three weeks until the regular-season opener. That could be mildly concerning to some, but the Royals clearly don’t look at Bailey the same way they’d look at an average newcomer.

Until this offseason, Bailey had spent his entire career as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. He started 212 games, recording 67 wins, 1,001 strikeouts and two no-hitters for that franchise in 12 seasons. He’d also undergone multiple elbow surgeries and several prolonged disabled list stints in recent years.

“(Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred) has, in a roundabout way, some familiarity,” Bailey said upon arriving at camp. “He was with St. Louis for a while and, obviously, I got to play against him throughout my whole career. So having his little bit of the outside looking in, sometimes that can be a big help, somebody — not just yourself, but an opponent — seeing things and picking you apart.”

The Reds decided to move on from Bailey and traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in December. The Dodgers absorbed the $23 million owed to Bailey and then released him.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore has pointed to Bailey’s reputation as a teammate and competitor, Bailey’s fit for Kauffman Stadium and the team’s improved defense as factors in the signing. Moore also thought the potential motivation of Bailey feeling like he has something to prove would also play in the Royals’ favor.

For Eldred, it’s much simpler than that. He sees Bailey as having more fuel left in the tank.

“I think he’s a good pitcher, and I think he’s got some good days ahead of him,” Eldred said. “I truly believe that. Look, he’s been fantastic in the past. I think he can continue to do that. I like his delivery. A lot of this stuff I liked before I ever stood next to him on a mound and watched him throw. Now I get to see it, and I’m sticking with what I was thinking before.”

Eldred, who spent parts of 14 years in the majors, didn’t identify any immediate mechanical changes he felt necessary with Bailey.

Eldred said his first priority was just building a relationship with Bailey. Eldred said he and bullpen coach Vance Wilson would be at the ready when Bailey needs input from them, but their first move would not be to make any sweeping changes.

“With him, getting to know him,” Eldred said. “I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Part of it too is, by watching him, he’ll let us know how we can help him. That’s just as important as what my eyes might see or Vance’s eyes might see. It’s as much him letting us know how we can help him.”

Royals manager Ned Yost said all he wants to see from Bailey this spring is for him to have some success. It’s clear he won’t rush to any quick judgments about the veteran based on his spring outings.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys come into spring training, veteran guys,” Yost said. “And I mean they just really struggled during the spring to the point where it’s like, ‘Oh man. Why are we not releasing this guy? Why is this guy still here?’ Right. Then bing. The magical bell rings. I’ve never heard it ring, but they say the bell rings. Then boom. They’re back to who they are. A lot of these guys, they know what it takes to get themselves ready for opening day. That’s their whole focus and concern.”

The coaching staff will monitor his stuff to make sure there’s not a significant decline in the quality of his pitches. Even if Bailey stumbles out of the gate, Yost will lean on his track record and the opinions of the organization’s scouts who evaluated him and recommended that the club sign him.

Yost, never one to look too far ahead, summed up any discussion of Bailey with the phrase “we’ll see.”

In order to drive his point home, Yost leaned forward in his chair as relayed a recent exchange he had with Bailey.

Yost asked Bailey if he’d gotten nervous while trying to secure the final few outs of his no-hitter. Yost, who claims he doesn’t get nervous, admitted that even he has found himself on edge and jittery during the final stages of one of his pitchers’ no-hit bids.

“He looked at me and he said, ‘Which one?” Yost said.

“You know, the guy has thrown two no-hitters in the big leagues. He knows what it takes to get ready, so we’ll see.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.