HAMILTON, Ohio -– At an autograph table during the final stop on the western leg of Reds Caravan on Sunday, pitcher Homer Bailey was seated at the end, only two spots from his boss, general manager Walt Jocketty.
In a few weeks, representatives for the club and the player could be locking horns during arbitration. But both Bailey and Jocketty were hopeful that it wouldn't come to that.
"The Reds had seven guys going through arbitration this year so it's been a slower process," Bailey said. "I can't tell you a lot of details about it. It's more between myself and the organization. It's going to get done. We're in no real hurry. It will all work itself out."
Contract talks with all of the six remaining arbitration players, including Bailey, were paused this week partly because of the caravan. Jocketty also took a couple of days away from the tour to fly to St. Louis for baseball legend Stan Musial's funeral.
"We'll work on it this week and we'll see. I would hope we could get it done," Jocketty said.
Jocketty has publicly said he would like to sign Bailey and fellow starting pitcher Mat Latos to long-term deals. But it did not seem that those talks had reached that stage as of yet with Bailey. The right-hander appeared to be open to the possibility.
"Nothing has been mentioned at all," Bailey said. "If it happens, it does. I don't know what their thoughts on it are. If it was ever brought up or brought to the table to us, it would be something to consider. I haven't really heard anything. I'm just getting prepared for the season. It's all I can do."
As the Reds' first-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft that has spent his entire career with the organization, could Bailey envision staying for the long haul?
"I don't know. I try not to look too far into the future," Bailey said. "We definitely have a great team. I love playing with my teammates and with our coaching staff like Bryan [Price, the pitching coach] and everybody else. I love those guys and like being around them."
Bailey, 26, avoided arbitration last year by signing a one-year, $2.4 million contract and is arbitration-eligible for the final time next winter. During the exchange of numbers on Jan. 18, Bailey filed at $5.8 million, while the club counter-offered $4.75 million -– a difference of $1,050,000.
Last season, Bailey was 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 33 starts and established career highs in wins, innings (208), starts, strikeouts (168) and quality starts (21). He also led the National League with a 2.32 road ERA.
Down the stretch, Bailey got stronger and his efforts culminated with a no-hitter vs. the Pirates on Sept. 28. In his one postseason start vs. the Giants, he allowed one run over seven innings with 10 strikeouts.
"He's getting older and maturing," Jocketty said. "I think he has a great relationship with Bryan Price. I think Bryan has done a good job with him, Dusty [Baker, the manager] as well."
"The biggest thing is I was healthy," Bailey said. "Now I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do to stay healthy. That's why I had such a good season. I was able to stay on the field."
In 111 career starts, Bailey is 38-33 with a 4.50 ERA. His early Major League career was rife with setbacks due to poor performance and injury. In his three full seasons from 2009-11, he never had more than 22 starts in the big leagues.
Bailey has already resumed a throwing program and will begin working off of a mound for the first time this year on Tuesday.
It was during the previous offseason that Bailey changed some of his routines. He added several pounds and some muscle to improve his durability.
"I know the eating a lot and getting bigger got a lot of emphasis," Bailey said. "But nutrition as an athlete plays a big part in what we do. Once I improved that part and went through the changes, I saw some good results."
The appreciation for those results was shown by a crowd of about 500 Reds fans during Sunday's caravan stop on the Hamilton campus of Miami University. Bailey was asked about his no-hitter a couple of times during a question and answer session. When video of the game at Pittsburgh was shown on a large screen behind the autograph table, fans cheered.
"It's pretty good," said Bailey, who replaced Jay Bruce on the western leg Saturday. "This is like my fourth [caravan]. It's good to see how far our Reds country stretches out there."