These are just a few of the pitchers who have started an Opening Day game for the Cincinnati Reds during their long, storied history. One year removed from that honor going to Opening Day Starter Scott Feldman [TM], it appears that Homer Bailey will now get his chance, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon has reported that manager Bryan Price has tabbed the oft-injured righty to throw the team’s first pitch of the season.
It’s official: Price names Bailey as #reds opening day starter. Romano was also told he would make rotation— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) March 23, 2018
It’s not normal to see a pitcher who’s had a 6.39 ERA over the previous three seasons combined get the nod to pitch first amongst his peers, but Bailey’s history of arm and elbow injuries (and subsequent surgeries) is rather unparalleled. I think we’d all have nodded our heads in agreement that the idea of him pitching Opening Day in 2018 wasn’t too farfetched back when he signed his massive nine-figure contract extension, but the idea of it now sure seems a bit...what’s the word...novel.
Perhaps there’s still a lot left in Homer’s stitched up right arm. His 93.5 mph average fastball velocity last year was the 4th highest of his career, and he’s had a full offseason without the need for rehab since he posted that mark. So, there could well still be life in his 31 year old arm, and we won’t have to wait too long to find out.
There was a chance the nod could’ve gone to Anthony DeSclafani prior to his second debilitating oblique injury, but said setback took him out of the running completely. The same can be said for Brandon Finnegan’s forearm spasm, as it’ll have him out to start the season, too. Luis Castillo was likely the only other real candidate for the job, and while his electric 89.1 inning debut in 2017 was the kind that helps build excitement for 2018, he’s also missed time in spring camp after he and his family welcomed the birth of a daughter.
So, we get Bailey, who’s somewhat of the conservative, default choice. As the longest tenured Red on the roster - but also one whose tenure has been oh-so-rocky - it’s almost fitting that he finally gets the Opening Day nod in a year where there’ll be no Opening Day parade at all. Regardless, there’s a ton riding on him finally having a healthy season, eating innings, and digging the Reds out of the NL Central cellar, and he’ll get the first crack out of 162 chances to do so.