DENVER -- Top pitching prospect Homer Bailey's start on Saturday could very well be his final one for Triple-A Louisville. By next week, Bailey seems likely to finally stand on a Major League mound debuting in a Reds uniform.
"It might be bigger than bobblehead night," Reds manager Jerry Narron joked.
The dominoes to promote Bailey began to fall into place on Saturday when Cincinnati optioned starter Bobby Livingston to Louisville and recalled reliever Marcus McBeth. On Friday, Livingston gave the Reds a solid, 6 2/3-innings spot start in a 4-2 win over the Rockies.
"He did a great job for us," Narron said of Livingston. "I'm sure if we need somebody again, he'll be highly considered."
Because of Monday's off-day, the Reds won't need a fifth starter again until next Saturday against the Indians. But it can't be Livingston. Unless there's an injury, rules state that a player optioned out must wait 10 days before he can be recalled. There was no consideration, Narron said, of using Livingston as a long reliever in the bullpen this week.
"So start checking your board to see who's rested next Saturday," Narron coyly told an assembled group of writers.
With veteran left-hander Eric Milton (left elbow) nowhere close to coming off the disabled list, there are three leading candidates.
"[Victor] Santos, [Phil] Dumatrait and Homer Bailey," Narron said.
Santos, a long reliever and former starter, is the lone option on the big-league roster. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 4.45 ERA in 20 relief appearances. His chances to start would be diminished if he's needed to pitch from the bullpen in the next few days.
Dumatrait is 5-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts. However, the left-hander is 0-3 with an 8.80 ERA over his last three starts. On Thursday vs. Charlotte, he allowed six earned runs and 12 hits over 4 1/3 innings.
That leaves Bailey, the Reds' first-round draft pick in 2004, who has dominated at every Minor League level. The 21-year-old entered Saturday's start at Durham with a 5-1 record and 1.89 ERA in nine starts. He had walked 21 and struck out 43. But Bailey struggled some in Saturday's start, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings. He struck out eight batters. The performance upped his season ERA to 2.31.
The organization has been deliberate with Bailey's development to this point. After he was roughed up in Spring Training, he was instructed to use his off-speed stuff more and not rely as much on his mid-to-high 90s fastball.
The Reds have Thursday's starter at St. Louis listed as "TBA," but it would normally be Kyle Lohse's turn since he started vs. Colorado on Saturday. Of course, that assignment would also give Bailey his normal four days rest to pitch as well. But chances are the Reds wouldn't mind the extra ticket sales a Bailey home debut would provide.