Leake aiming high in first Spring Training
Reds' 2009 first-round pick targeting fifth spot in rotation
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
02/19/10 4:25 PM EST
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Of all the Reds players to make their way to the new Spring Training complex in Arizona, pitcher Mike Leake probably had the shortest trip.
Leake, the organization's first-round Draft pick in 2009, lives in Phoenix and spent the previous three years starring on the mound for nearby Arizona State University.
In his first Spring Training, the 22-year-old Leake wants his journey to the Major Leagues to be just as short. Although he hasn't been mentioned to be in the mix for the vacant fifth spot in the rotation, it is his target.
"I'm definitely aiming that high," Leake said. "I realize my chances aren't as great as some of the guys. I basically have to come out and wow people and show them what I can do."
If he made the team out of camp, it would mean Leake would get to skip the Minors entirely.
"That would be nice," he said.
Generously listed at 6-foot-1, Leake was a sinkerball specialist for ASU when he was made the eighth overall selection. Because he pitched 142 innings while going 16-1 and appeared in June's College World Series, he did not pitch for the organization after he signed in August.
Leake did pitch six games and made five starts in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 1.37 ERA with three walks and 15 strikeouts. Besides the sinker that helped him succeed in college, he can also throw a cut fastball, changeup and a curve-slider.
"It helped me see what kind of talent is out there and what Double-A and Triple-A players look like," Leake said. "It definitely helped me to get on track sooner. It took me a couple of outings in the fall league to get back into my own mindset and pitch how I pitch."
Reds pitching coach Bryan Price watched three of those games and liked what he saw.
"You're not sticking your neck out if you would say this kid is ready to compete at the higher levels of the Minor Leagues and challenge to be on our Major League team quickly," Price said. "In the same breath, you have to say you have to go out there and do it.
"There are a lot of guys that you build up prematurely, which is unfair to a kid like him who is in his first full season of professional baseball and never been to a Spring Training. His first Spring Training is big league camp. He has enough challenges of his own. I think he is a very polished kid, and he's just going to go out there and pitch his way and force our hand."