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Reds send Homer Bailey back to Louisville

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

By JOE KAY

AP Sports Writer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Homer Bailey is headed back to the minors to work on that control.

The Cincinnati Reds sent their former first-round draft pick to Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday, settling the last question about their rotation. Right-hander Josh Fogg will get the final open spot.

The Reds gave the 21-year-old Bailey every opportunity to make it, even rearranging their schedule to let him pitch on Monday night in what amounted to his last chance. When he walked six batters in less than five innings, the decision essentially was made.

"We had a nice, long conversation," manager Dusty Baker said. "You see how long we stuck with him. He was heavily in consideration. He showed vast improvement from last year to this year. He showed big improvement from the beginning of spring training."

The right-hander didn't make enough progress in his biggest shortcoming. He still needed too many pitches to get through innings, limiting how long he was on the mound. In 19 innings this spring, he walked a team-high 16 and gave up 24 hits. He finished with a 5.21 ERA.

"I told him to go down there, and when you come back I hope you're here to stay for a long, long time," Baker said. "He has the stuff to win. His future is very bright, I think."

Bailey came into camp hoping to win one of the three open spots in the rotation behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Right-hander Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez moved ahead of Bailey by pitching much better.

Although the rotation came into focus Wednesday, the bullpen and the last few spots on the bench remained open while players got ready to head north for Monday's season opener. They still had 35 healthy players in camp, 10 over the opening day limit.

Four auto carriers lined up on the street outside the Reds' complex in Sarasota on Wednesday afternoon, preparing to ship players' vehicles north. A truck with team supplies and players' packages was getting ready to head for Interstate 75 north.

Baker had hoped to have most of the decisions made by now, but the Reds are looking at the waiver wire and weighing various options.

"There's a lot of tossing and mixing and matching of names," Baker said. "The names are still the same. It's a tough time right now. It's a tough time to make the club if you're on the bubble, a tough time to make those decisions, a tough time to get a job if you don't make it."

The Reds added another twist to their deliberations on Wednesday by deciding to let catcher David Ross play in a major league game. Ross has missed most of spring training because of lower back spasms, and had been catching minor league games the past few days.

The Reds seemed to be leaning toward letting him start the season on the 15-day disabled list. If he didn't play in a major league game, they could count the last nine days of spring training as part of the stay, meaning he would be eligible to return a week into the season.

Instead, they're going to push him and see if he's ready for opening day. Ross batted only .203 last season, but is a better defensive catcher than backup Javier Valentin. He was in the lineup for a game Wednesday night against Toronto.

"We were wrestling with keeping him down and using less days on the disabled list once the season starts, but he's been making pretty good progress," Baker said. "I still don't know if that's enough time to get everything together."

Ross caught five innings and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout on Wednesday.

"No hits, no runs, no spasms," Ross said.

He started catching minor league games on Friday and hasn't had a problem with his back.



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