Bailey shows pre-surgery form with 11-K win

Reds righty tosses 6 innings of 3-hit ball in third start back

Bailey shows pre-surgery form with 11-K win

MILWAUKEE -- Little about Homer Bailey's rehabilitation from May 2015 Tommy John surgery was likely easy. Certainly none of it was fun, especially since he didn't pitch in the big leagues for 15 months. But three starts into his comeback, Bailey found a nice reward for his efforts.

In a 7-4 Reds victory over the Brewers on Friday night at Miller Park, Bailey made it look easy with three hits allowed over six scoreless innings. He walked one and was one shy of a career high with 11 strikeouts. Through four innings, he faced one over the minimum. In the sixth, he struck out the side.

"Just really locked in," Reds manager Bryan Price said of the performance. "That was fun for me to watch. It looked like the Homer Bailey that we knew before the injury."

What made the sixth inning more climatic -- especially when it was still a 3-0 game -- was Bailey returned from a 31-pitch bottom of the fifth during his lone danger of the game. It opened with a leadoff walk and broken-bat single, but Bailey hunkered down from there. Kirk Nieuwenhuis fouled off three changeups before striking out on a 95-mph fastball. Following a popout by Martin Maldonado, pinch-hitter Andy Wilkins went from a 2-0 count to striking out on three fastballs, the last also at 95 mph.

That's when Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins started a conversation that would include Bailey lobbying for one more inning.

"Mack and I were talking, 'That might be good. He might be done after that inning,'" Price said. "Anybody that's watched this team and watched Homer realizes a lot of times when he's getting to the finish line there's times his best stuff will show up."

Bailey got it done by striking out Jonathan Villar, Orlando Arcia and Ryan Braun to end the night with 102 pitches.

"I have such a great relationship with Bryan and Mack," Bailey said. "Even when I came back, Bryan had said, 'Hey, there's going to be games where you're going to want to go back out and I'm going to have to pull you. That's just part of it. You're not going to like it.' And I won't, but I respect it and I know where his head and his heart are at. I have so much trust with those guys, I don't want to know. I just want to pitch. When I get out, I get out. When I'm out there, I'm out there."

Bailey is 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA after three starts, with a nice 5 2/3-innings season debut at San Diego on July 31 followed by a lackluster three innings in a loss at Pittsburgh last Saturday. In that game, he told Price he had trouble finishing his pitches and lacked command but felt fine.

"There's going to be a little bit of up and down, not with results but with stuff. That's just the way things are coming off that type of injury," Price said.

Against San Diego, Bailey had a stretch where he retired 14 in a row. But he felt sharper vs. Milwaukee.

"Definitely starting to see my focus sort of dialing in a little bit, which I was really pleased with I think more than anything tonight," Bailey said.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.