There has been some discussion about Mike Leake below, and there is no question that he is going to be a key figure in the drama surrounding the starting rotation over the next month or two. Right now, according to our poll, Leake figures to be on the outside looking in as the season begins.

Barring injuries — and one sore shoulder could change things in an instant, remember — Leake is probably going to have a difficult time cracking the rotation. Mark Sheldon tells us, however, that Leake has been working hard to prepare for the season:

It wasn’t hard to see that Mike Leake made some winter changes. Sure, he shortened his hair quite a bit, but that wasn’t what stood out.

Teammate Yonder Alonso took notice on Monday when he saw Leake head to his locker, one of the Reds’ many early arrivals to Spring Training ahead of Wednesday’s report date for pitchers and catchers.

“Leake’s gotten bigger,” Alonso said.

According to Leake, he’s simply gotten stronger.

“This year, I mainly worked on getting strength,” Leake said. “I wasn’t too worried about the endurance part. I know I’ll be doing plenty of it during Spring Training and the season.”

In the piece, Leake says his goal is never to play in the minor leagues. This spring will tell the tale on that front.

Anyway, go over and read it the entire article. Mostly, it’s your ordinary player profile that we’re going to see a million times before spring training closes. There were a couple of interesting nuggets, however, including this:

Throughout last season, Leake was protected quite a bit from overwork by Jocketty, manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price. His pitch counts rarely topped 100 and he often was skipped or had starts pushed back. He couldn’t count on pitching every fifth day, but sometimes every sixth, seventh or eighth day.

Leake could be seen having a friendly chat with Jocketty near the bullpen following his throwing session Monday. He hopes to voice his desire to the club about removing some of the restrictions in 2011.

“I’d like them to just let me go as long as I can and not mess with the schedule,” Leake said. “It wasn’t easy. Once they told me I was getting extra rest, you relax. Right after you’re done with a start, you [normally] think the next day you have to get back into it and have a workout tomorrow. Once they say they’re going to shut you down, you say, ‘What am I going to do with the extra three days?’ You have to find ways to keep in a routine and it was tough.”

Wrong, Mr. Leake. They took care of you last year, and you still couldn’t handle the workload. Now you want them just to let you go? That sounds like an astoundingly bad idea.

Anyway, I like Leake and I think he has a bright future ahead of him. This spring is likely to be the biggest fight he’ll ever have to make a big league roster. I hope he pitches well and makes it a tough decision.