On Friday, Bryan Price announced that Homer Bailey would be the Reds Opening Day starter. The news was expected. So was the frustration this move would cause with many Reds fans. Bailey has become a polarizing figure.

There are two rules for managers when deciding who should start on Opening Day:

  1. If you have a bona fide ACE, you start him. I don’t think there is much debate here.
  2. If you can’t follow Rule #1, then go with the guy that you believe would benefit the most from starting on Opening Day. That’s the pitcher whose confidence would be increased the most by starting. On the flip-side the starter that wouldn’t have his confidence shaken if he gets beat around on Opening Day.

The Reds rotation to start 2018 is Homer Bailey, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Sal Romano. Amir Garrett is likely #5, depending on how quickly Brandon Finnegan becomes available. But Finnegan certainly is not an option for Opening Day. The Reds weren’t going to start Mahle or Romano. That leaves Bailey and Castillo.

Luis Castillo was awesome in 2017. If you are looking at who is the Reds best starting pitcher right now, it would easily be Castillo. However, Castillo has 15 major league starts. He is expected to continue to improve from his breakout 2017. Do you want to add more pressure by starting him on Opening Day? If Castillo has a bad start on Cincinnati’s holiday, could it shake his confidence? Maybe.

Homer Bailey has always been a guy who is not afraid of the moment. He has two no-hitters, pitched an incredible Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS, and has a stone cold, no-care attitude. While those things mean nothing in terms of Bailey’s future projections, it is clear that pitching on Opening Day will not overwhelm Bailey. If Bailey gets rocked on Opening Day, I don’t see that impacting what he does the rest of the season. You might not be able to say that about other candidates.

Maybe, Homer Bailey will rise to the occasion and pitch a great game against a tough Washington Nationals lineup on Thursday. Imagine how nice that would be for the Reds as a way to to kickoff the 2018 season.

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

Join the conversation! 31 Comments

  1. 100% agree, Nick.

  2. Good stuff Nick. I agree with Bailey being the choice. Castillo will hopefully have plenty of years to be the opening day guy.

  3. Agreed as well.

  4. Playing for a team as pathetic as the reds should give Hunter Greene the opportunity to play immediately

    • Which would benefit neither Greene nor the Reds. Maybe they prove pathetic, maybe not. We won’t know for months.

  5. Exactly

  6. It was mentioned in the other Homer article that it’s Homer’s first opening day start. Honestly, that is enough for me. I’m glad he’s getting the opportunity.

  7. Tough start for Mahle, at least Winker is leading off and Hamilton is at the bottom of the order

  8. Scooter with the 3 run triple off a lefty! I don’t think he’s going to stop hitting anytime soon!! Winker with the front end of double steal with Votto at the plate….Beltre dropped the tag or he was out. I’m not sure about that strategy?

  9. Mahle is horrible tonite…..everything seems up and he’s not getting anything over but the fastball. Not good.

  10. The thing is Castillo doesn’t seem–from the outside–to be the kind of player who needs to be protected from emotional letdown of a possible disappointing opening day. But, of course, the team knows more than I do about that situation.

    A middle-aged “get off my lawn” moment: do we coddle younger pitchers too much? Would it be more productive, in the long run, for Castillo to lean into the pressure of a big game than avoid it? Again, I’m no expert. But it seems like a valid question.

    • It is a valid question, and I don’t know the answer, either. But Opening Day, particularly in Cincy, is a loaded situation in a way that other big games may not be, and a player’s having made the majors and performed well doesn’t spell the end of his development. Self-doubt and insecurity probably become manageable incrementally rather than suddenly.

  11. If we worrying about that then why bring him into the majors in the first place. What’s the point in starting him in 15 games last year and he immediately become the best pitcher on your team including the guy your giving the opening day start to. To that same token what’s the point in spring training as well?

    • One point of Spring Training is for players to work on things that they need to work on.

  12. Who starts Opening Day doesn’t matter. If they’re healthy and decent they’ll all get 25-30 starts anyway. I’m happy for Homer.

  13. Not opposed to Bailey getting the start, but I really think he will get rocked. I hope he is able to rebound and be productive, but I haven’t seen any evidence that he can. So far, he’s looked like the 2017 version of Arroyo….just has too many innings where he struggles to get anybody out.

    When you look at his starts last year where he basically had 2 bad starts for every decent one combined with his ST innings, it certainly looks like his career is fading fast. When your veteran anchor for the staff is consistently struggling to get through 5 innings with less than 100 pitchs, your bullpen is going to get worked hard…again.

    Predictions? It’s going to be another long year in Reds Nation. Disco & Finnigan WILL be hurt as much or more than thy are healthy. I fully expect Disco to eventually have surgery at some point this year. I am not hopeful than Finnigan will do very much this year. He came into camp and promptly had a setback. The images I’ve seen of him looks like he put on several pounds. It doesn’t look like he put in the work in the off season to put himself in position to have a good bounce back season.

    Overalll, I do think the pitching will be better, but it has a long way to go. It will be better because of all the innings that will not go to the many pitchers the Reds used last year that are no longer in MLB this year. The “veterans” will fade. Unless Bailey learns how to reinvent himself in the next stage of his career, he may fade completely out of MLB. Disco will fade to the OR table and Finny will fade to the bullpen.

    The young arms give ample reason to hope. The young guys will pitch and be inconsistent. They will learn and hopefully improve enough to lay the foundation of the next good Reds team’s pitching staff. Here’s to good health for them all so that the “sorting” part of the rebuild can be effective.

    • Last year Bailey was returning from surgery and a prolonged period of not pitching. Ring rust. Maybe he’s shot, but I don’t believe that his command issues under those circumstances are sound evidence of that.

      • I’d add that spring training performance doesn’t mean beans for veteran pitchers. Let’s see how he does during the regular season this year. He may be awful but he may be a solid MLB starter too. I think it could go either way.

    • How a pitcher pitches in the half year following surgery is not a good indicator of how he will pitch the following year. Yes, he may be washed up, but many pitchers regain their control – their feel for their pitches in a newly-repaired body – and have a much better second season after surgery. Let’s not give up on being Homer fans just yet.

      • Still a fan of Homer. Just trying to be honest about what my eyes see. I hope you are right. The Reds do not have a reliable “innings eater” on the staff. They need a guy that can consistently go deep into games so the bullpen isn’t gassed. Disco and Homer could be that, but I think it’s a slim chance either of them gives us 150 innings this year.

  14. Not much that needs defending here really. If Bailey had pitched Opening Day several of the last few years–even once before–then, sure, hand the ball over to Castillo and the next generation. But you have a staff of basically rookies and Bailey, who has been a part of the organisation for 10+ years, has brought some great moments, and has never pitched OD. Obviously we’d all love him to miraculously recover what was his once “ace” potential, but this is likely the organisational nod of gratitude/resignation and the first gesture in what might likely end in an uncomfortable decoupling over the next few years. I actually like the storylines with matchups more this way (Castillo/Strasburg!).

    • I’d like to see the Reds get more ruthless. Fewer organizational nods of gratitude to beloved players (Arroyo ’17, etc.), and more of scrappy shark-like calculations of who is most likely to have a quality start.

      I don’t believe nice guys always finish last. But last year did seem to provide a telling data point in that direction.

      • On the other hand, players probably pay attention to these things and appreciate nod to Bailey. Part of having an organization players want to play for is treating them with respect, while not letting them run the show.

        If Bailey had a bad game and Castillo lights the world on fire… the Reds still end up 1-1. Does it really matter which day those outcomes occur?

  15. The Opening Day starter does matter. Price made the right call. Glad Homer got the start and i hope he can set the tone for the pitching staff. Right or wrong, wanted or unwanted, he’s the veteran, the leader of the staff.

  16. Last year it was veteran Scott Feldman that got the OD start. 4.2 innings of 7 hit, 3 er baseball, giving up 2 HR in the loss. Brandon Finnegan (who should have been the OD starter) followed that up in game 2 of the season with 7 innings of shutout baseball, striking out 9 hitters& getting the Reds 1st win. Same story, different day (year). I anticipate that after Bailey gets hit hard next Thursday, Castillo follows that up with a quality start.

  17. I’d like to see less emphasis on Bailey as the opening day pitcher since he’s trying to come back from a long period of injury. Let’s give him a whole season to see what he can do. Opening Day is just one game in 162 and instead let’s enjoy the festival and the game as Cincinnati and the surrounding area welcomes back baseball.

  18. I’m good with Bailey getting the OD start. He didn’t have a great spring, statistically, but he knows how to get ready for a season. More than any other pitcher, his spring stats do not matter. If they get 1 win against Scherzer and Strasburg, then it was a good opening two days.

    I like the rotation; the rotation has 1 great arm and 4 good arms. The Reds have enough organizational depth now to have these 5 guys, plus Finnegan and Desclafani when their [non-joint] injuries heal, plus Stephenson and Cody Reed, who all also have good arms. Scott Feldman did not have a good arm. They shouldn’t be 4 runs down in the 4th inning very often this year, as they have been in the past.

    Mahle was bad last night, but better to get it out of the way now.

  19. Another thought that occurred to me: the Reds have obviously invested a lot in Bailey. Emotionally, in the sense that he’s been with the team for so long, but also financially. His base salary for this year is listed as 21 million. That’s not too far from what Joey Votto makes. (Source: spotrac.com.)

    So,if you’re the Reds, you have two choices. You can face harsh reality that you’re on the hook to keep paying a struggling pitcher high dollars until 2020 (and wail, and gnash your teeth, and drown your troubles at the beer stand) OR you try to convince yourself that this guy is still a star and that injuries haven’t permanently taken the shine off of him.

    It’s human nature to take the latter path. From an economic perspective, it may even make sense. When you’ve invested that much money in an arm, and you’re committed to KEEP paying him high dollars until 2020, why not be infinitely patient with him and root, root, root for the Pitching Gods to bless him with a rebound so you eventually get some return on that investment? You give him the top place in the rotation, not because he’s the best pitcher on the staff but because he’s the highest paid.

    I hope he has that rebound. That’s what my heart wants. I want him to show us he’s worth all that money.

    But my head tells me that it probably won’t happen, and that the Reds will keep on trying to squeeze Bailey into the “Ace” role–like trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.

    As an aside, Bailey’s contract is an excellent example of the type of contract the owners are increasingly shying away from. And I say, more power to the owners. Long-term, guaranteed money, high dollar contracts are hard to justify for any position–but particularly for pitchers, who are in the line of fire on the mound and face other unique injury risks.

  20. It is not bad for Castillo to get to start against another team’s second starter instead of their ace. It could be easier for his confidence to build when he can relax and not feel like he has no room for error. Sure, he was confident last season, but every player is better with more confidence, especially young ones.

  21. Did I think Homer would start opening day? Yes. However, do I believe Homer is head and heels that much better than all other starting pitchers on our staff? Not by a long shot. Homer is starting opening day because of how much time he has put in. I word it that way instead of saying “experience” because one can consider experience being a good thing, then. I simply don’t believe experience will make a difference with Homer. I believe he’s too much of a headcase.

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About Nick Kirby

Nick is a lifelong Reds fan who was born and raised in Cincinnati. He acquired his love of baseball from his late grandfather. Nick moved to the Cleveland area in 2014 with his wife, and his currently fighting to convert his beautiful baby daughter Emma to Reds fandom. Nick has been writing for Redleg Nation since 2013. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicholaspkirby.

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