SARASOTA, Fla. -- This may be the first spring Dusty Baker has ever laid eyes on pitcher Homer Bailey, but the Reds manager has witnessed plenty of Homer Baileys throughout his years in the game.
"It's not easy being Homer," Baker said. "I've seen it a thousand times. It's not easy being 'Mr. Everything Can't Miss Kid.'"
Maybe that's why Baker wasn't freaked out one day after Bailey's latest start vs. the Yankees. The right-hander used a lot of pitches quick -- 59 in 2 1/3 innings -- while giving up two earned runs, six hits and three walks. He also hit a batter and struck out three.
In his three starts, Bailey is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in 7 1/3 innings with six walks and six strikeouts. The 21-year-old is among several pitchers fighting for three spots in the Reds rotation. Fellow young contenders Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez are both coming off impressive outings recently. Jeremy Affeldt, Matt Belisle and Josh Fogg are the veteran candidates.
"You guys [in the media] have seen Homer a lot more than I've seen Homer," Baker said. "I've seen Homer three times in my life. And I can only go on the progress I've seen since I've been here. [Monday] was the first time he wasn't pitch-efficient actually since I've been here."
Bailey became the Reds' first-round pick (seventh overall) in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft and is rated by most publications as the best pitching prospect in the Reds organization. He is the No. 9 prospect overall this year, as rated by MiLB.com.
With Cincinnati's poor history of developing homegrown starting pitchers, Bailey was the first promising arm to come through the system in a long time. With that has come increased scrutiny and attention.
Baker would like to see that spotlight dialed down some.
"I learned years ago that the most dangerous word for a kid is potential," Baker said. "If they don't do great, then no matter what they do, they don't reach their potential. Some guys take longer to get it than other guys for some reason. What is Homer, 21 years old? This dude is barely at drinking age. There are kids in college that haven't even signed a contract yet that are still pitching. Homer already has this experience."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.