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Bailey returns to Reds with new pitch

Bailey returns with new ally

CLEVELAND -- Josh Roenicke has seen Homer Bailey pitch in parts of the last two seasons. But he said Bailey has never looked better.

Roenicke, who was Bailey's teammate with the Triple-A Louisville Bats, said the 23-year-old pitcher has added a new pitch to his repertoire -- a split-finger fastball -- which is baffling Minor League hitters. Bailey will get a chance to test his new pitch when he is called up again to start against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday at Progressive Field.

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Roenicke said Bailey learned the pitch after he was demoted to Louisville on May 24. He and Bats pitcher Justin Lehr were throwing it in batting practice. Bailey liked the pitch so much, that he decided to use it in games.

Bailey can throw the split-finger pitch in the mid- to upper-90s. Roenicke said the pitch comes out like a fastball and then dives to the left or right of hitters.

After a recent start against the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers, the Tribe's top prospect, Matt LaPorta, said it's the best pitch he's seen all year. That statement is pretty impressive considering LaPorta has played 13 games in the Majors this season.

"In one game, he threw it 11 times in a row, eight times for strikes," said Roenicke, who has been with Cincinnati since June 17. "He has a good arm and a good arm slot to throw it out of."

The results have been impressive. Bailey, who is expected to join the team on Saturday, is 8-5 with a 2.71 ERA, 82 strikeouts and 27 walks on the season for the Bats. But he has turned it on as of late.

Bailey is 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA, 38 strikeouts and seven walks in his past five starts.

"He's been absolutely dominating," Roenicke said. "He has been locked in and throwing strikes."

That was something Bailey had trouble doing in his previous big league stints.

When Bailey pitched against the Indians on May 23, in his only other start for Cincinnati this season, he pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up six earned runs and three hits with three strikeouts and a career-high six walks.

When Bailey is officially called up Saturday, it will be the sixth different time he has done so since the Reds drafted him with the No. 7 pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. He is 4-8 with a 7.01 ERA in 18 starts for Cincinnati. A corresponding move will have to be made before Bailey is called up.

Manager Dusty Baker is holding off on praising Bailey's new pitch. He said it doesn't matter what pitches Bailey has added, if he can't throw his fastball for strikes.

"You have to control your fastball first before you try a split-finger or any other finger," Baker said. "If he gets his fastball down, it will make his split-finger and any of his other pitches better."

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Homer Bailey (0-0, 12.46 ERA)
The 23-year-old Bailey is 4-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his past five starts at Triple-A, with three of them lasting at least eight innings. Over his past 38 1/3 innings, Bailey has allowed just one run, walking seven while striking out 38. In 14 starts overall for Louisville, Bailey is 8-5 with a 2.71 ERA.

CLE: RHP Tomo Ohka (0-1, 4.70 ERA)
Ohka delivered a workmanlike performance in just his second start of the season last Saturday. He shut down the Cubs for the game's first four innings before surrendering home runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Still, he kept his team in the game. Ohka threw six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking three. Lifetime against the Reds, Ohka is 5-2 with a 3.34 ERA in 11 starts. He has struck out 48 batters and walked 22.

Tidbits
Like Bailey, right fielder Jay Bruce was put on the fast track to the Majors with mixed results. Bruce is tied for the Major League lead with eight outfield assists, but came into Friday's game hitting just .213 with 17 home runs and 38 RBIs. "I told him, 'They are tricking you,'" Baker said. "There will come a day when he won't get tricked by the upperclassmen." ... Jonny Gomes was in the lineup as the designated hitter on Friday night for the fourth straight game. In his past 14 games, Gomes is hitting .389 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-O

On radio
• WLW 700

Up next
• Sunday: Reds (Micah Owings, 4-8, 4.87) at Indians (David Huff, 3-2, 5.71), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Reds (Bronson Arroyo, 8-6, 5.54) vs. Diamondbacks (Dan Haren, 6-5, 2.25), 7:10 p.m. ET

Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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