Sunday is going to be a landmark day for Homer Bailey and his team. Usually, that “team” refers to the Cincinnati Reds, but in this case, Bailey’s team is the Reds sports medicine provider, consisting of athletic trainers, physical therapists, his strength coach, and many of the doctors and nurses at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Beacon Orthopaedics is the official sports medicine provider for Cincinnati’s Major League Baseball team. With the disabled list constantly fluctuating over the past few years, the team at Beacon Orthopaedics has helped keep the Reds playing. It is this same team of experts that are guiding Bailey’s recovery from Tommy John surgery.
It has been less than a year and a half since the right handed pitcher underwent the procedure, so his recovery time is well within expectations. However, Bailey was pushing himself to be back on the mound at a flat twelve months. In May, Bailey suffered a minor setback while pitching in the minors. Since then, due to lots of hard work on Bailey’s part, and a lot of monitoring and corrective actions by the Reds sports medicine provider, everything has gone smoothly.
Everything except for Bailey’s statistics. In Triple-A, he hasn’t exactly shone brightly. In six starts with the Louisville Bats, the right-hander put up a 5.21 ERA, giving the opposing team six home runs. Out of 20.1 innings, Bailey has struck out only 13, although he seems to be regaining control as he has walked only seven batters.
The Reds team Medical Director, and the surgeon who performed Bailey’s Tommy John surgery stated, “There’s no physical reason to hold him back this year, at 15 months, it’s time to go. We’ve looked at his elbow, we’ve ultrasounded it, we’ve looked at everything. Everything looks strong and sound, he’s had no elbow issues at all: zero, since he had that setback a couple of months ago. He’s just working through the other aspects that a pitcher might do as he builds his stamina.”
In response to comments that Bailey wasn’t performing well in the minor leagues, Dr. Kremchek noted that when most players compete at the highest level for so long, returning to the minors is a big change. “(P)itching at the Triple-A level doesn’t get your blood and juices flowing. They need the fans behind them, the higher level of competition, to really get the adrenaline going. I think that’s what we’re going to see with Homer. I don’t expect him to come out and be the Homer of old in his first couple of outings, but he’s going to need those. I think it’ll bode well for next year.”
That seems to be the only reason Bailey will finish out this season. Fans, writers, and sportscasters are chalking the Reds’ 2016 season up to rebuilding, and that is even true with Bailey’s performance. To expect him to come out and pitch ten strikeouts his first game is unrealistic. In fact, Bailey is usually a 200-inning pitcher. To start this late in the season presents a great opportunity for him to become comfortable on the mound, without exerting himself too much. The last thing Bailey wants is another injury. It’s important for him to take it slow the latter part of the 2016 season before ramping it up in 2017. As Cincinnati’s fans have been telling themselves all season, “Maybe next year.”
The offseason is going to be important for Bailey’s recovery, commented Dr. Kremchek, of Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, the Reds sports medicine partner. He noted, however, that it will be very similar to what healthy pitchers do. For a player like Bailey, who has been recovering from various injuries and surgeries since 2013, this will be a welcome change of pace. Coming in toward the end of the season, especially a dismal season for the Reds like 2016, is really perfect timing for Bailey.
Giving Bailey the opportunity to pitch nine or ten starts through the remainder of the season provides him with a great way to get his feet wet, without the risk of overuse. Then he can enter the offseason feeling good and knowing where he needs to focus. If all goes according to plan, hopefully 2017 will be the year for action: not just for Homer Bailey, but for the entire Reds roster.
To read the entire story, written by C. Trent Rosecrans and published by the Cincinnati Enquirer on Cincinnati.com, please click here.