Homer Bailey's star is rising fast.
The Reds righty put up some impressive numbers in 2012. Setting the standard for National League pitchers on the road with a 2.32 ERA, Bailey also set personal records in games started, wins, innings, strikeouts, and quality starts.
But the La Grange, Texas, native saved most of his firepower for the end of the season. In September, he went 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA. One of those wins was the no-hitter he tossed to catcher Ryan Hanigan against Pittsburgh on Sept. 28.
Then there was his start in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, dueling with San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong in a seven-inning, one-run, 10-strikeout affair, although the Reds did not win the game.
But the success Bailey has finally found has been a long time coming. He was hyped by fans and media alike after being selected by Cincinnati in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
"I guess I didn't really know what type of anticipation there was. I just kind of went out there and played," Bailey recalled.
Making his MLB debut in June 2007, Bailey was in and out of the Majors for several years before establishing himself in the Reds' starting rotation.
The question arises of whether the no-hitter in September 2012 was the first time Bailey felt Cincinnati saw his true talent.
"I don't know," he laughed. "It seemed like I was doing a little better on the road than I was at home. Hopefully some of them [fans] were watching."
He attributed his late-season surge to good health.
"Staying healthy, by far, is probably the biggest attribute to that," Bailey said. "If you're out there on the field, you can go out there and play. But every now and then if something is hurting, you just can't perform as good as you want."
Not playing well wasn't something Bailey had to be concerned about as the season wound down.
"I think that there were some good things going on with our team in general. You had five starters who were making every single start," Bailey said. "You had a bullpen that was doing an outstanding job, hitters coming [through] in the clutch here and there, our defense has always really been good.
"Plus, we were winning so many games, it seemed like almost every night that someone [different] was taking the spotlight, whether it was Brandon [Phillips] making a good catch or [Ryan] Ludwick hitting a home run. And even when Joey [Votto] was out, guys were stepping up to take care of everything. And then, it just happened right there before the playoffs," Bailey explained.
While the Reds' postseason run was definitely a team effort, Bailey had a lot to do with their success -- perhaps more than he's often given credit for.
"Somebody once told me that your Septembers and your end-of-the-seasons are a direct reflection on your offseasons," Bailey said. "I heard that one time, and I think that just goes to show what kind of offseason work I put in."
And he has been working awfully hard this winter.
"I've been kind of hungry," Bailey admitted. "I still keep thinking about that game we lost in Game 3, and it's kind of stayed in the back of my mind."
Bailey has said he'll start working off of a mound this week, and when he does, opposing batters might want to take note.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less