Bailes Is Just About All Angels Have Left : Baseball: Pitcher hasn’t gotten many people out lately, but he hopes to turn things around.
If not for the genetic decision that made him left-handed, Scott Bailes might be home in Springfield, Mo., running his indoor sports complex and thinking back on his major league career.
“If I was right-handed, I’d be panicked right now,” Bailes said. “I’m not saying that because I’m left-handed, I’m locked into the big leagues for 10 years. But I know there’s always teams you can play for, being left-handed.”
As a left-hander, the 27-year-old reliever is valuable enough for the Angels to stick with him through his protracted struggles, ordeals that made him wonder whether he was still capable of getting anyone out. With the second half of the season under way, Bailes is eager to prove that his value extends beyond what he is, to what he can do.
Bailes, who was acquired from the Cleveland Indians last January for minor leaguers Jeff Manto and Colin Charland, started respectably, compiling a 1-0 record and a 2.91 earned-run average through May. Since then, his ERA has ballooned to 5.66, including six earned runs in the 2 1/3 innings of his last three appearances.
Bailes was close to demotion when Greg Minton was activated off the disabled list on July 6, but was spared in part because he was the only left-hander in the bullpen. Six days later, the Angels promoted Cliff Young from triple-A Edmonton. Since the All-Star break, Bailes has appeared once, for two-thirds of an inning against Toronto last Saturday.
“We want to get him to the point where he feels comfortable with himself,” pitching coach Marcel Lachemann said. “We think he’s capable of getting both left-handers and right-handers out, but he’s had problems trying to overthrow the ball. . . . A lot of left-handers in the major leagues who are here wouldn’t be if they weren’t left-handed. But you have to do more than just be left-handed.”
When Bailes was acquired to be the Angels’ left-handed setup man, he never figured he’d be walking such a tightrope.
“It was an ideal situation,” said Bailes, whose former Cleveland teammates open a three-game series against the Angels tonight at Anaheim Stadium. “They had Bob McClure to be the left-handed short reliever, and I would be there to fill in some innings. Then he and Minton went down, and I took it upon myself to do more, to pitch different. I came in and tried to throw the ball by people and be overly aggressive. It’s never worked for me, and it’s really dumb of me to think I can pitch that way.
“I started to come in like Mitch Williams,” he said, referring to the Cubs’ hard-throwing reliever, “but I throw 85 m.p.h. and he throws 95 m.p.h. I got away from my whole game. No one’s more frustrated than me. After those two guys got hurt, they looked to me, and I let everyone down--the coaches, the bullpen, the front office. I feel I haven’t really done the job since Day One.
“I’ve pitched shutouts in the big leagues (two for the Indians in 1988), and I did it by being a smart pitcher throwing to spots. That’s what’s kept me in the big leagues. If I don’t start pitching like that again, I’ll pitch myself out.”
He hit bottom in the Angels’ 20-7 debacle against the Brewers at Milwaukee on July 8, after relieving starter Bert Blyleven with one out in the fourth inning. The Angels’ 7-0 lead had become 7-4, and two runners were on when Bailes came in. Bill Spiers popped up, but Bailes then gave up run-scoring singles to Jim Gantner and Gary Sheffield that sustained the rally. He was charged with only one run but took responsibility for the entire collapse.
“I blame myself because if I’d pitched five innings like I was supposed to, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I wish they could have given all 20 runs to me. I dragged the whole bullpen down. Me, personally, I can take having a bad year, but with the injuries in the pen, I wanted to pick up the pen and lead by example, and I haven’t. There have been days I’ve made guys pitch when they shouldn’t have.”
When he began taking his frustration home with him to his wife and their daughters, Allison and Tara, Bailes knew he had to stop torturing himself.
“I was being a real jerk,” he said. “I was kind of short with the kids and JoAnne, and that wasn’t fair to them. Finally, I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ I wasn’t acting normal. I did sit and talk with Lach (Lachemann), and he said, ‘You’re going to have a good second half, and no one’s going to remember that you had a bad first half.’ ”
Bailes’ new grip is on himself, not on a baseball, although Lachemann and bullpen coach Joe Coleman adjusted his windup to have him force the ball over the top more than before. Bailes believes that has helped, although he allowed a run to Toronto the first time he tried it Saturday.
“I gave up a couple of ground balls that were hits, and that’s the way I pitch,” he said. “I didn’t give up doubles off the wall and home runs like I had been giving up. I can live with that, even if they scored a run. I was happy with that night. The bottom line is you have to go with your strength, even if you have some weaknesses.”
Coleman believes Bailes has enough strengths to warrant more patience. “He’s not one of those one-dimensional guys. If we can get him comfortable, he’s the guy who can keep the score down and pitch three or four innings,” Coleman said. “When he’s right, he can get right-handers out as well as left-handers.”
Bailes believes he has the right perspective on pitching and his life.
“I’ve finally decided I’ve got to relax and enjoy myself instead of walking out there tense and expecting bad things to happen,” he said. “I’m going to relax and have fun and get as many outs as I can.
“I’m not one of those guys who wanted to play baseball from the time they were 5 years old and playing tee-ball. I love this job, and there’s not a better job in the world, but when you’re not going good, it can be the worst.”