On Tuesday, after a few days of speculation, the Reds made it official. The organization's 2004 first-round Draft pick, Bailey will be called up to make his Major League debut on Friday in a start vs. the Indians at Great American Ball Park.
Bailey was 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA, 24 walks and 51 strikeouts in 10 starts this season for Triple-A Louisville.
"At first, you're kind of nervous and things," Bailey said of his emotions to reporters in Louisville. "But after a while, you feel, 'This is where I want to be.' This is what I've been working for and this is what I've been looking forward to. Now this is the time."
Reds decision makers felt likewise about the timing for the 21-year-old right-hander.
"Based on the opinions of the people that are around him every day and conversations we've had, we felt good about bringing him up here," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said from his office in Cincinnati.
The last-place team in the National League Central with the league's worst record, the Reds hope to benefit from Bailey's arrival. But neither he, nor the club, viewed him as "the savior."
"I don't know about all that stuff," Bailey said. "They're not playing to their potential so far this year. They know that. They know they're a better team than they've shown. The Reds themselves don't look for me to be a big season changer. In their minds, it's 'Let's get him up here just in case.'
"Two years ago, the Astros made a big run at it after they were this far down. 'Let him make his adjustments now and if we're there later in the season, he's already got his feet wet and time underneath him to make these adjustments.'"
Reds media relations director Rob Butcher said fans have already responded to the news. Butcher said late Tuesday afternoon "there was a significant spike in ticket sales" since the Bailey announcement was made in the morning.
Bailey was last seen among Major Leaguers when he was at Spring Training as a Reds non-roster invite. It wasn't smooth sailing, as he allowed eight earned runs, six hits and three walks over 3 2/3 innings. He was dispatched to Louisville with instructions to mix up his pitches and not rely entirely on his 95-98 mph fastball. Krivsky's reports indicated that Bailey listened.
"He's done a lot of things right," Krivsky said. "He's developed his curveball and changeup and has better command of his pitches. He's matured on the mound in terms of his presence and poise. Put it all together and the feeling was that's he's ready for the next step."
Reds manager Jerry Narron has been seeking Bailey's big league promotion since last season.
"I want to see guys be challenged, no question about that," Narron said. "It's definitely going to be a challenge for him. He's put up very good numbers in Triple-A. He has a chance to come to the Major Leagues and it's nice to see somebody come here that you feel like has earned his way here."
A few Reds have played with Bailey at Louisville this season.
"That guy is pretty good," said rookie reliever Marcus McBeth. "The most impressive thing about him is his composure. He's really composed for as young as he is. I actually learned from him when he's pitching, how to carry yourself on the mound and stuff like that."
Reliever Todd Coffey, who was recalled on Tuesday, couldn't say for sure if Bailey was ready for his call to the Majors.
"It depends on him," Coffey said. "If he comes out, stays within himself and doesn't try to do more than he can do, he'll be fine."
In his previous start on Saturday, Bailey allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings with eight strikeouts in Louisville's 7-5 win at Durham.
"It was the first time I've seen him throw in a game," said outfielder Josh Hamilton, who returned Tuesday from rehab assignment with the Bats. "He started off the first couple of innings slow. He came into the dugout and you could tell he was fired up. In the third, fourth and fifth innings, he had a little more intensity. He did really good throwing the ball and spotting it well, keeping hitters off balance."
Bailey was chosen to make the start over Reds long reliever Victor Santos and Louisville lefty Phil Dumatrait. But there never seemed to be any doubt that the start wouldn't go to Bailey, and speculation ramped up since Saturday.
"I didn't even know anything about it," said Bailey, who will be assigned uniform No. 34. "I was in my hotel room [in Durham, N.C.] checking my e-mail and looking at hunting stuff online. Dumatrait, my roommate, came in and told me 'Look online.'"
Originally, it was anticipated that Bailey would be called up to start on Saturday vs. Cleveland. But the Reds decided to move Matt Belisle back an extra day so both pitchers could work on six days' rest.
"We were coming back on the bus, coming back from Durham, and I had told everybody, 'Saturday, Saturday, Saturday," said Bailey, who expected to leave about 15 tickets for friends and family. "At about midnight [Louisville manager Rick Sweet] calls up and says, 'Oh yeah, it's been changed to Friday.' We were in the hills of West Virginia and the [cell phone] service was bouncing in and out. I was trying to tell them Friday and not Saturday."
Since Cincinnati made Bailey the seventh overall Draft pick in 2004, he has been the club's most anticipated prospect in years. In each of the last three seasons has been rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the organization.
"Up to now, I think I've accomplished and learned so much in the game," Bailey said. "Now, it's only the beginning. Now I'm eager to learn and see what adjustments I need to make and what I'll figure out."