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DENVER -- Top pitching prospect Homer Bailey's start on Saturday could very well be his final one for Triple-A Louisville.
By next week, Bailey seems likely to finally stand on a Major League mound debuting in a Reds uniform.
"It might be bigger than bobblehead night," Reds manager Jerry Narron joked.
The dominoes to promote Bailey began to fall into place on Saturday when Cincinnati optioned starter Bobby Livingston to Louisville and recalled reliever Marcus McBeth. On Friday, Livingston gave the Reds a solid, 6 2/3-innings spot start in a 4-2 win over the Rockies.
"He did a great job for us," Narron said of Livingston. "I'm sure if we need somebody again, he'll be highly considered."
Because of Monday's off-day, the Reds won't need a fifth starter again until next Saturday against the Indians. But it can't be Livingston. Unless there's an injury, rules state that a player optioned out must wait 10 days before he can be recalled. There was no consideration, Narron said, of using Livingston as a long reliever in the bullpen this week.
"So start checking your board to see who's rested next Saturday," Narron coyly told an assembled group of writers.
With veteran left-hander Eric Milton (left elbow) nowhere close to coming off the disabled list, there are three leading candidates.
"[Victor] Santos, [Phil] Dumatrait and Homer Bailey," Narron said.
Santos, a long reliever and former starter, is the lone option on the big-league roster. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 4.45 ERA in 20 relief appearances. His chances to start would be diminished if he's needed to pitch from the bullpen in the next few days.
Dumatrait is 5-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts. However, the left-hander is 0-3 with an 8.80 ERA over his last three starts. On Thursday vs. Charlotte, he allowed six earned runs and 12 hits over 4 1/3 innings.
That leaves Bailey, the Reds' first-round draft pick in 2004, who has dominated at every Minor League level. The 21-year-old entered Saturday's start at Durham with a 5-1 record and 1.89 ERA in nine starts. He had walked 21 and struck out 43. But Bailey struggled some in Saturday's start, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings. He struck out eight batters. The performance upped his season ERA to 2.31.
The organization has been deliberate with Bailey's development to this point. After he was roughed up in Spring Training, he was instructed to use his off-speed stuff more and not rely as much on his mid-to-high 90s fastball.
The Reds have Thursday's starter at St. Louis listed as "TBA," but it would normally be Kyle Lohse's turn since he started vs. Colorado on Saturday. Of course, that assignment would also give Bailey his normal four days rest to pitch as well. But chances are the Reds wouldn't mind the extra ticket sales a Bailey home debut would provide.
Back in the bigs:
Saturday marked McBeth's second call up to the Reds this season. He was previously called up on May 15, but did not appear in any games. A few days later, the right-hander went on bereavement leave when his grandfather died. On May 21, he went back to Louisville.
Since his April 27 trade from the A's organization for outfielder Chris Denorfia, McBeth has an 0.75 ERA and six saves for Louisville. With the Reds lacking reliable late-inning relief, except for David Weathers, Narron won't be picking his spots to use McBeth.
"We won't use him long, but we'll use him everywhere else," Narron said. "We might need an inning -- lead, tie, behind -- it won't matter."
Errors adding up:
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez committed his ninth error of the season on Friday. Gonzalez's seventh-inning bobble and drop of Todd Helton's slow ground ball let Colorado's first run score.
"It's bothering me," Gonzalez said of his errors. "Most of the errors made were on easy ground balls. It's stupid errors I'm making."
Last season with Boston, Gonzalez committed a career-low seven errors and enjoyed a 57-game errorless streak.
"I'll try to repeat that again," Gonzalez said. "I know I can play defense and help this team. It's important for me to stay focused and not lose concentration."
Still on an injury rehab assignment, rookie outfielder Josh Hamilton hit his fourth homer in five games for Louisville on Saturday.
Hamilton is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, but the Reds do not plan to activate him until Tuesday when they open a series at St. Louis.
State champs: Narron's son, Conor, went 1-for-4 with two RBIs and played shortstop while Charles B. Aycock High School claimed the North Carolina 3A state championship on Friday. Aycock finished its season with a 31-4 record.
Matt Belisle (5-4, 4.26 ERA) will start for the Reds in Sunday's 3:05 p.m. ET series finale vs. the Rockies. Right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (2-0, 2.35) will start for Colorado.