Bailey remains candidate for Reds’ rotation

Published 5:34 am Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Right-hander Homer Bailey is one of three candidates vying for the final spot in the Cincinnati Reds rotation as spring training games begin.

Right-handers Micah Owings and Nick Masset also are among the leading candidates for the fifth starter’s spot that was a work in progress all last season. The Reds hoped that Bailey, a former first-round draft pick, would win the job in spring training a year ago, but he struggled and the spot was never settled.

The 22-year-old Bailey went 0-6 in eight starts during the season with a 7.93 earned run average. Batters hit .378 against him.

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‘‘Let it play out,’’ manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘Certain people probably have a better chance than other people.

‘‘A case like Micah Owings — he’s been a starter in the big leagues and a pretty good one. Masset was, and then went to long relief. He’s trying to get a shot at what he’s always wanted to do. Homer Bailey is trying to get over the hump to be a big-league pitcher.’’

The rotation is set with Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. The final spot and the left field job are the two main openings that the Reds are looking to fill when they open their exhibition season Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The left field role opened up when Adam Dunn was traded last season. Six players have a chance at winning at least part of the job.

‘‘Somebody might emerge and just take it,’’ Baker said. ‘‘But if we started right now, it would be more of a platoon situation.’’