Coming off back-to-back seasons with a 3.70 ERA, Mike Leake struggled en route to his first losing season since 2014. Fueling the fire was an uncharacteristically poor showing against right-handed hitters. After holding them to a batting average below .265 for three straight years, his luck ran out and they put up a .304 average and .752 OPS against him in 2016. Meanwhile, he continued freely allowing home runs. In all seven of his seasons, he's allowed at least 0.97 per nine. A slight rebound isn't out of the question, and at his best, Leake can gobble up plenty of innings with a passable WHIP, but he continues to work with a low strikeout rate (16.2 percent for his career), which limits his value in most mixed formats.
Leake gave up four earned runs on five hits and three walks over five innings in Monday's 12-6 Grapefruit League win over the Astros. He struck out three. Leake's performance was a definite mixed bag, as he induced four double plays over his first four innings but also gave up a two-run double to Jake Marisnick and run-scoring single to Josh Reddick. The veteran righty also experienced some rare control issues, walking the leadoff batter in three straight innings. He did work up to 77 pitches, throwing 45 of them for strikes, and is now 2-1 with a 4.95 ERA over five spring starts.
Leake (2-1) gave up three earned runs on four hits and two walks over four innings in Wednesday's Grapefruit League loss to the Twins. Leake opened the start looking as effective as he had most of spring in not allowing a baserunner through his first two innings. However, he ran into trouble in the third by giving up a pair of line-drive singles, a walk and an opposite-field two-run double to Joe Mauer. He was effective during the rest of his outing, however, with manager Mike Matheny particularly pleased with his location and movement. "I think that's something he's just going to build his game around is working the corners, being down. The groundball is his game and I think he's got more swing-and-miss stuff. I like how he's challenging guys in the bottom of the zone. We're seeing really good movement down there."
Leake (2-0) gave up an earned run on one hit over four innings in Friday's 7-1 Grapefruit League win over the Nationals. He struck out two. Leake's sole hiccup was the solo homer he surrendered to Bryce Harper, as he otherwise turned in a highly effective performance. The veteran right-hander breezed through his four frames on 41 pitches, firing 29 of them for strikes. He kept the ball down as well, inducing eight groundball outs and firing five different pitches. The 29-year-old is naturally encouraged by his spring results, which include zero walks over 11 innings thus far. "I think I can say this is the most mature I've felt in my whole career," Leake said. "I feel like I'm at the most comfortable with the big leagues that I've been."
Leake (1-0) surrendered three earned runs on six hits in Sunday's 14-11 Grapefruit League win over the Mets. He struck out one. After a crisp effort Tuesday against the Braves in which he fired three perfect innings, Leake had to work harder Sunday. He got into trouble early by giving up a solo homer to Yoenis Cespedes in the first before surrendering two more runs on a sacrifice fly by T.J. Rivera and a double by Travis d'Arnaud in the fourth. Despite the blemishes, Leake came away with plenty of positives. "It was not quite as crisp as the last game, but it was a good one to learn on and build off of," said Leake, who had retired all nine batters in his first spring start. "I think for the most part I was able to locate my fastball and cutter, but I still have room to get better."
Leake fired three perfect innings in Tuesday's 2-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Braves. He struck out three. The veteran right-hander got his spring off to an ideal start, setting down a regular Braves lineup that included Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp on an efficient 32 pitches, 21 of which he threw for strikes. Leake had solid command of his sinker, as evidenced by the six groundouts he induced over a nine-batter sample. The 29-year-old is still in the process of putting weight back on after having endured a bout with shingles late last season, and hopes to reach 180 pounds by the start of the regular season. His efficiency Tuesday allowed him to surpass his original projected two-inning workload and drew rave reviews from his boss. "He already looks so much sharper than when we saw him early on last year," manager Mike Matheny said after the 2-0 loss. "He's in a great place."