Tag:Culinary Dropouts
Posted on: March 9, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Fifth rotation spot a battle in Cincinnati

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It is not a stretch to say that rookie Mike Leake was a key spark that helped light Cincinnati's baseball Renaissance during the first half of 2010.

So how could it be, then, that the young right-hander is scratching and clawing for a rotation job here this spring ... and has a better than 50/50 chance of opening the season at Triple-A Louisville?

Well, circumstances broke just right for Leake last year at this time and he completely skipped the minor leagues, jumping from Arizona State to the bigs. He was the first starting pitcher in the majors to accomplish that since Jim Abbott with the Angels in 1989.

But a couple of things are at issue this year: One, the length of last season eventually wore him down and the Reds wound up pulling him from the rotation late in the season. And two, behind Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto, the Reds have a growing number of other good young arms.

Essentially, it's a three-person battle for the last two slots in the rotation among Leake, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood. One disadvantage facing Leake is that Bailey is out of options (meaning, the Reds now have to place him on waiver and risk losing him before they can send him back to the minors). Consequently, Bailey probably has a job won unless he turns in an absolute clunker of a spring.

At roughly 5-10 and 175 pounds, Leake, who went 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) last year for the Reds, remains a wisp of a guy.

"You hope he's getting stronger," manager Dusty Baker says. "He was a little kid [last year].

"I was always told there are kid muscles and there are man muscles, and he don't have his man muscles yet."

The Reds still value Leake, 23, and appreciate that he helped launch them early in 2010 toward their greatest heights since 1995. But like other very young pitchers, he still hase some developing to do.

"He was our best starter over the first eight or 10 weeks and he was on the worst schedule," Cincinnati pitching coach Bryan Price says. "Because we were trying to limit his innings, he wasn't on an every-five-days schedule."

Whenever the Reds had an extra off day, they pushed Leake back, and he often started with five or six days' rest, rather than just four. As Price says, those are not optimal conditions for a starting pitcher.

"I think we have a chance to start [the season] with Mike because he's a winner," Price says. "We have a good problem [with many talented, young arms], but it's going to be a bad problem for one of the guys."

There is a chance the odd man out among Bailey, Wood and Leake could pitch out of the bullpen, but those circumstances would have to be extenuating. The Reds' first choice would be to send whomever does not make the big league rotation to Triple-A Louisville so the kid can continue to develop.

Sunblock Day? SPF 50, baby. Warmest day yet in Arizona, in the 80s, with the 90s right around the corner.

Likes: Eric Davis in uniform as an instructor in Reds camp. ... Joe Morgan visiting. ... The fried chicken and biscuits at Culinary Dropouts in Scottsdale. ... The Fennville, Mich., boys high school team winning an emotional district tournament opener after the unspeakable death of one of its players last week following a game-winning shot to cap a 20-0 season. Former colleague Jeff Seidel captured the heartbreak and the optimism nicely in this story.

Dislikes: None today. How can there be any after reading the gripping story above? Just prayers and thoughts.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
"Keep me in your heart for awhile
"There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
"Keep me in your heart for awhile"

-- Warren Zevon, Keep Me in Your Heart

 
 
 
 
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