Leake in Control

Mike Leake's four-year career has seen multiple threats to his spot in the rotation. During nearly all of that time is that he has continued to throw the ball for the first pitch every fifth day. He was the first starting pitcher in over twenty years to bypass the minor leagues before his MLB debut and is just now entering what should be the peak years of his career.

Cincinnati scored three unearned runs in the first inning Tuesday and shut out the Mets on three hits in a 4-0 win at New York. Mike Leake got the win by tossing seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and a couple of walks. Sam LeCure threw a scoreless eighth to bring his ERA down to 1.35 and Logan Ondrusek struck out two while retiring the side in order in the ninth. The Reds crossed the plate twice on an error and scored again when Devin Mesoraco drew an RBI walk. Mesoraco added on their final run in the ninth with a solo homer. Todd Frazier had two hits, but did more damage when he reached on an error in the first that plated the Reds first two runs. Mesoraco and Joey Votto finished both collected a hit and a walk.

Leake has not allowed a run in his last two outings while throwing nearly fourteen innings which brings his ERA down to 3.25. Before that he had a nice start against Atlanta, yielding two runs in seven innings, but ran into trouble in the eighth. That is his only outing when he allowed more than three runs since his first two starts of the season.

Recently there was some speculation that Leake might be a casualty from the success that prospect Tony Cingrani had while replacing injured Johnny Cueto. Comments made by manager Dusty Baker indicated that he was not one that shared that opinion and confirmed that Leake's job was safe. Instead Cingrani was sent back to Louisville to continue developing as a starter before Cueto came off the DL on Monday. Despite the injury to their ace, the Reds rotation has been getting the job done once again this year and right now all six pitchers that have started games for them have an ERA under 3.30.

Actually, Leake is kind of like a cat with nine lives. Prior to the season he figured to be the odd man out when Aroldis Chapman was converted into a starter. An announcement was made right before opening day that informed Reds fan that their closer would remain in the bullpen and the five-man rotation would remain the same as it was in 2012. Even though there have been multiple times when he was expected to be headed to the farm he has remained on the Reds roster for nearly all his professional experience since skipping over the minor leagues entirely and crashing the rotation as a rookie in 2010.

Perhaps fans are quick to give up on Leake because he does not have overpowering stuff on the mound. Instead he relies on a finesse game with multiple pitches and a high-80's fastball. Since he's a four-year veteran it's easy to forget that he's still only 25 years old which is around the age that many pitchers are making MLB debuts, so he still has some potential upside left.

Also, since Leake never had an opportunity to stir up any hype in the minors it's easy to forget that he was the eighth overall selection in the 09 draft. What that means is that back in 2010 he would have remained prominent in the Reds future plans even if his jump from college directly to the National League had not been successful. He was in their plans then, he's in current plans now, and recent outings may be suggesting he's ready to take the next step after finishing 2012 as an adequate five-man. Basically, despite the fast-track Leake was put through earlier, he's probably right on schedule for a pitcher his age.

Cincinnati has benefitted from extraordinary stability in their rotation since the start of last season. That may change a bit pending the future of 36 year-old Bronson Arroyo who is making $11.5 million in the last year of his contract. The Reds would hate to see the veteran leave, but sometimes payroll limitations in a small market are a harsh reality. Cingrani did a nice job in his six MLB starts but was overly dependent on his fastball. Now he has the remainder of the season to work on his off-speed offerings against AAA hitters. The prospect still figures big in the future of the Reds rotation but will probably remain at Louisville until roster expansion unless another injury requires his services sooner.

Meanwhile Leake will continue to take the ball every fifth day for the defending NL Central Champs. Arroyo has enjoyed a long MLB career and over half of it has been in a Reds uniform. He appears to have significant gas left in his tank and might be motivated to remain in the organization and continue being part of the success that he helped to build. Cingrani has overpowered minor league hitters at every level and it would be no surprise that he's banging on the door for a permanent rotation spot at the end of this year. Given past history it would be no surprise that Leake's name is again tossed around as the team's sixth best starter and on the outside looking in for a rotation spot. Don't bet on it, if this young man has proven anything it is that he knows how to keep an MLB job.

Other Organizational News:

Louisville rallied for three in the third and added a couple of late-inning home runs in a 6-2 win at Gwinnett. Chad Reineke got the win with a quality start, allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings. Kevin Whelan and Yohan Pino finished off the G-Braves with a scoreless inning of relief each. Felix Perez got the Bats scoring started with a two-run triple and scored himself on Mike Hessman's single. Hessman pushed two more across with a home run in the eighth and Corky Miller popped a solo homer in the ninth. Hessman finished with three of his team's seven hits while Miller and Billy Hamilton both reached safely with one hit and a walk. Neftali Soto drew two walks and scored a run.

Pensacola scored a couple of runs in the ninth, but came up short in a 4-2 home loss to Mobile. Bryson Smith doubled home one Wahoo run and scored the other one on a wild pitch. Luis Durango reached safely four times with a couple of hits and two walks. Tim Crabbe was lifted in the sixth and took the loss after allowing four runs. Drew Hayes, Lee Hyde, and Loek Van Mil combined for three-plus innings of scoreless relief.

Bakersfield won a 12-10 slugfest over visiting High Desert. Ryan Wright put three runs across the plate with a couple of home runs and Kyle Waldrop gave his team a lead early with a two-run homer in the third. The difference turned out to be a five-run rally in the seventh inning that included five Blaze hits, one of Wright's long-balls, and a High Desert error. Jake Johnson got no decision and allowed six runs (five earned) in four-plus innings. Kyle McMyne allowed only one unearned run in one and two-thirds innings for the win.

Dayton had a day off and will return home to open a three-game set against West Michigan.


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