- Associated Press - Friday, March 23, 2018

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) - Homer Bailey wasn’t even thinking about opening day. After years of setbacks with his elbow, the Cincinnati Reds’ highest-paid starter just wanted to get through spring training without an issue.

Bailey accomplished his goal, and manager Bryan Price announced that the right-hander will make his first opening day start at home next Thursday against the Washington Nationals. He’s getting the chance in part because Anthony DeSclafani is sidelined with another injury.

“Cool,” Bailey said after pitching six innings against Colorado on Friday. “It is something I never really thought about. When you climb Mount Everest, no one ever talks about the first step. They talk about getting to the top. It is more throughout the course of the season that I look forward to than just the first one.”

The 31-year-old has been limited to 26 starts over the past three seasons because of injuries to his forearm and elbow. Last year, he had bone spurs removed from his elbow before the start of spring training. He was rusty when he returned and wound up 6-9 with a 6.43 ERA in 18 starts.

Bailey is in the fifth season of a $105 million, six-year contract. He pitched no-hitters in 2012 at Pittsburgh and 2013 against San Francisco at Great American Ball Park. He had surgery the following year to repair a torn tendon in his forearm, followed by Tommy John surgery in 2015.

DeSclafani was in line to start the opener in each of the last two years, but injuries in spring training left him sidelined. He has a strained left oblique. Bailey became the best choice for opening day, given the Reds’ inexperienced rotation. The only other veteran is left-hander Brandon Finnegan, who has been limited by a forearm problem this month.

Bailey was told about his opening day assignment before facing the Rockies. He gave up three runs and nine hits in six innings.

Homer is best suited for it,” Price said. “This is a guy who has pitched in the postseason. He has pitched no-hitters. He has (six) complete games. He has pitched on really good teams.”

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