Very nice piece focusing on Reds rookie wunderkind Mike Leake in this week’s Sports Illustrated:
One afternoon late last month in Goodyear, Ariz., Reds pitcher Mike Leake, making his first-ever spring training start, found himself staring down from the mound at Ken Griffey Jr., his boyhood idol. LeakeÃ¢â‚¬â€a spindly righthander with brown shaggy hair and a small scruff on his chinÃ¢â‚¬â€is a command pitcher who paints the corners of the strike zone with the precision of a miniaturist. But on an 0-and-2 count against Griffey, he unfurled a slider that scudded inside and nailed the Mariners’ future Hall of Famer on the right ankle. After the game, Leake’s brother, Ryan, the pitching coach at UC San Diego, asked Mike if he lost control because he was facing a player whose posters covered the walls of his childhood room. “No way,” Leake snapped. “I was trying to strike him out. I should have struck him out.”
You don’t force your way into a major league rotation at 22 years old, you don’t become the 21st player in baseball history to skip the minor leagues altogether, unless you have some serious confidence and attitudeÃ¢â‚¬â€especially when you’re 5’10” and 180 pounds and your fastball barely tops out in the low 90s.
A couple of months ago, who would’ve thought that Mike Leake would be causing as much excitement in the Nation as Aroldis Chapman? We absolutely cannot ask for any more than Leake has provided in his first three starts. It’s been one of the few things that have been fun to watch this season.
Check out this quote:
“We know that history suggests that guys in his situation typically fail,” says Reds pitching coach Bryan Price. “The easy and safe thing would have been to let him go to Double A for 10 starts, then to Triple A for another 10, then maybe get him up here at the end of the season, and then say, O.K., we did it by the book. But the bottom line is we’re trying to win, and we think this kid is ready.”
I liked the decision from the beginning…well, except for the part about handing Leake over to Dusty Baker. But if they are cautious with the kid, it is clear that he can help the major league team win games. I’m all for winning more games.