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Thread: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

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    Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Pitching duo shine in debut
    By C. Trent Rosecrans, CNATI.com Posted March 6, 2010 8:11 PM ET

    GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Nobody Tweeted a pitch-by-pitch account of the spring debut of Travis Wood or Mike Leake, but had they, the superlatives would have been tough to keep to 140 characters.

    Overshadowed by the uproar over Aroldis Chapman have been the Reds' No. 1 pick from last season and last season's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The hype around Chapman has been loud - and deservedly so, it should be noted by one of the hipsters - but Leake and Wood are as much a part of the Reds' promising pitching future. They may also be just as close to appearing at Great American Ball Park as Chapman.

    Wood, 23, and Leake, 22, both made their spring debuts in Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Indians at Goodyear Ballpark, and neither gave up as much as a hit.

    "It was the first time I saw Wood in action and he threw it good," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Leake, he threw the ball equally as good as Wood. He moved it around, changed speeds. He's got an idea of what he's doing for such a young pitcher. Both of those young guys threw the ball good today."

    Wood entered the game in fifth inning, and while some Indian starters were out, he did face Shin-Soo Choo. After getting Luis Rodriguez to ground out weakly back to him to start the inning, the lefty Wood threw left-handed hitting Choo a cut fastball that fooled the Indians' outfielder and resulted in a check swing for strike one. Then on a 2-2 count, Choo grounded out harmlessly to second base. He then struck out Lonnie Chisenhall on three straight pitches.

    He walked the first batter he faced in the sixth inning, but got the next batter, Shelly Duncan to ground into a double play and then a fly ball to right to end his day.

    There were no fireworks or desperate looks at radar guns, but it was an effective and impressive performance. It's pretty much what Wood had been looking for.

    "I went into last year with a brand-new mindset, I'm not going to give in, I'm not going to give the hitters too much credit. I'm going to go right after them, let my guys behind me do their work and we're going to win ballgames," Wood said before Saturday's game.

    That was new, said his catcher on Saturday and for most of his professional career, Chris Denove.

    Denove said before last season, Wood threw everything off his changeup, but last year he changed his approach, got more aggressive and started everything off his fastball and cutter.

    The results were staggering. In 2008, he went 4-9 with a 7.09 ERA for Class AA Chattanooga. In 2009, Wood was 9-3 with a Southern League-record 1.21 ERA in 19 starts for the Class AA Carolina Mudcats. He was named MiLB.com's Class AA Starter of the Year, the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher and a Class AA All-Star by both Topps and Baseball America.

    The results were pretty much the same in his first Cactus League start and his first-ever game against big leaguers.

    "It's déjà vu," Denove said. "It was like every game last year. It's the way we work."

    It's also the way Leake works - and worked on Saturday. Drafted with the No. 8 overall pick in last year's draft out of Arizona State, where he was named the 2009 National Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a unanimous All-American selection and a Golden Spikes Award finalist.

    Leake debuted last season in the Arizona Fall League, starting five games and going 1-2 with a 1.37 ERA in six total appearances.

    Still, Saturday was different, he admitted. It was his first start in a Reds uniform. His outing was just an inning, but it was eerily similar to Wood's first inning - a grounder back to the mound, a strikeout and a groundout to second.

    "I want as quick as innings as you can get. I'm a ground-ball pitcher, that's how I stay in games," Leake said. "You'll know when I'm having a bad game because you'll see more fly balls and groundballs. When there's groundballs, it means I'm doing something right."

    It's why Leake has been earmarked for the fast-track to the big leagues since being drafted.

    Mike Leake fields a bouncing ground ball against the Indians in Goodyear Park. Photo by Brian Baker"I haven't caught Leake in a game yet, but from what I've seen in bullpen sessions, he's real good with what he's got. That's all you can ask for from a baseball player, you're given your ability, what can you do with it," Denove said. "Leake is as polished I've seen coming out of college. He commands both side of the plate with most of his pitches and that's going to get a lot of hitters out. He knows how to set up hitters, and that's a real big deal."

    New Reds pitching coach Bryan Price has liked what he's seen from the duo so far. Price, an Arizona resident, watched Leake in the Arizona Fall League and has watched Wood closely since he reported to Goodyear early.

    "I haven't had a great taste of exactly what they're capable of doing, so I'd rather not say, but from what they've accomplished, what Wood was able to do over the course of last season and what Mike was able to do over the course of his college career and Arizona Fall League, these guys are going to challenge soon," Price said. "I'm not going to say anything about this year's club, there's nobody in this room that already has no chance at making the club -- not that it's my decision -- but I'm not thinking about whether either of these guys are going to start in the minor leagues. That's not in my mind. My interest is to decide and come to my own conclusion if that I could stand up and say this guy could help us at the big league level now.

    "We'll have to see what Dusty and Walt and the rest of the coaching staff say. I just want to see them pitch, I'd like to have them as long as possible and really make a push for a shot on our roster. I'd like all our guys to do that, but they have to get a result, but these two came out and set a real high bar for themselves in their first game."

    That bar is as high as anyone's now. Both pitcher do it differently than the sexy fireballer, but that doesn't mean either have mediocre stuff, Price said.

    "I think both of them have plenty of fastball. When you put them up against Cueto or Chapman or Cordero, guys that power the ball, the similarities aren't there," Price said. "However, they both have plenty enough fastball. Neither one has to apologize for their velocity for any means. They can sink it or cut it and add or subtract velocity from their fastball and they both have outstanding changeups. And then you just pitch. What they do is they execute pitches. From their bullpen routines through their first games, they've done just that. They've been really clean with their deliveries and made a lot of good pitches over the course of the early part of the spring. They've impressed everybody."

    http://cnati.com/spring-training-201...-debut-001448/

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    The more I read and see about these young pitchers the more excited and optimistic I am about them. There is a different feel and sense about this group in comparison to the past decade. I don’t think it is just hope or emotions either. For so long we as Reds fans had nothing much to look forward to but some offense, while pitching and defense seemed like something to be passive or apathetic about. But this group and what we read and see seems to be really something to get safely excited, optimistic and really happy about, without some future major disappointment coming along to spoil it, at least so far.

    I love offense, but baseball is really nice when our favorite team has good pitching and defense. What's it been since what, 1990? Seems like two lifetimes ago.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    That was new, said his catcher on Saturday and for most of his professional career, Chris Denove.

    Denove said before last season, Wood threw everything off his changeup, but last year he changed his approach, got more aggressive and started everything off his fastball and cutter.
    This part should explain why we shouldn't expect 09 to have been a fluke year for Wood...
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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Travis Wood was all but written off after 2008. Homer Bailey was looking like a bust going into the second half of 2009. Logan Ondrusek was on the verge of being cut going into last season. Thanks to adding just one pitch, we are seeing players' careers revived left and right, which I don't think we would've seen during the JimBo and DanO days. The Reds have always had prospects, but it wasn't until recently that we started to see the Reds' prospects actually 'develop'. I'm glad the Reds finally have coaches who can actually help develop the pitchers, and there is finally reason for optimism when it comes to the pitching.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    The nice thing about pitching depth is that it lets your pitchers progress naturally through the system. The good ones stick around and get better, the bad ones weed themselves out as the competition level gets higher.

    Consequently, the Reds high-minors are now stocked with multiple arms that project to be big-league contributors as opposed to the recent past, where anyone with a fastball that could find the plate was fast-tracked for Cincinnati.
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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by camisadelgolf View Post
    Travis Wood was all but written off after 2008. Homer Bailey was looking like a bust going into the second half of 2009. Logan Ondrusek was on the verge of being cut going into last season. Thanks to adding just one pitch, we are seeing players' careers revived left and right, which I don't think we would've seen during the JimBo and DanO days. The Reds have always had prospects, but it wasn't until recently that we started to see the Reds' prospects actually 'develop'. I'm glad the Reds finally have coaches who can actually help develop the pitchers, and there is finally reason for optimism when it comes to the pitching.
    Issue is, it really didn't come from the coaches... Bailey attributed a ton of his improvement from the TX Longhorns coach working with him... Didn't Wood pick up his cutter from another pitcher in the organization?
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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by REDblooded View Post
    Issue is, it really didn't come from the coaches... Bailey attributed a ton of his improvement from the TX Longhorns coach working with him... Didn't Wood pick up his cutter from another pitcher in the organization?
    I think you're thinking of Bailey, who learned the splitter from Justin Lehr. As for Wood, he scrapped his curveball in favor of a cutter in an effort to make his changeup more effective. I'm not sure if someone suggested that to him, or if it was all on his own, though.

    Logan Ondrusek learned his cutter from Tom Brown. Oddly enough, his cutter has more velocity than his fastball, which is why he went from almost being cut to being a legitimate prospect. He has always been effective against righties but would get crushed by lefties. Now, you can argue that he's just as good against both because his cutter goes away from the barrel of bats and in on the hands of left-handers.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by camisadelgolf View Post
    Oddly enough, his cutter has more velocity than his fastball, which is why he went from almost being cut to being a legitimate prospect.
    Not sure where you got this at, but it goes against what I have seen and read. His cutter is mid 80's. Fastball is 88-91.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    Not sure where you got this at, but it goes against what I have seen and read. His cutter is mid 80's. Fastball is 88-91.
    I should've worded that better. It's not consistently faster than his four-seamer, but it's not unusual at all for it to be 1 or 2 MPH faster, which helped make him more effective. Lefties would think a fastball was coming, and then the ball would cut toward their hands and cause them to weakly ground out.

    Where is your fastball data from? I believe his velocity is better now than it was a few years ago.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by camisadelgolf View Post
    Travis Wood was all but written off after 2008. Homer Bailey was looking like a bust going into the second half of 2009. Logan Ondrusek was on the verge of being cut going into last season. Thanks to adding just one pitch, we are seeing players' careers revived left and right, which I don't think we would've seen during the JimBo and DanO days. The Reds have always had prospects, but it wasn't until recently that we started to see the Reds' prospects actually 'develop'. I'm glad the Reds finally have coaches who can actually help develop the pitchers, and there is finally reason for optimism when it comes to the pitching.
    This just goes to show you that you have to be patient and try different things to bring out the best in pitchers. I don't think this would have happened in the Jimbo or Dan-O days either. I think they would've gotten impatient/frustrated and sold them low to other teams.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Wood & Leake
    Posted by jfay March 7th, 2010, 3:38 pm

    It’s hard not to lump Mike Leake and Travis Wood together. They’re both in camp for the first time. Both are slightly (Wood is 5-11, 163 pounds; Leake is 6-1, 190 pounds). And both rely on savvy and control more than power.

    Leake was 16-1 with a 1.71 ERA last year at Arizona State. Wood was 14-5 with a 1.77 ERA last year in the minors.

    There are differences. Wood is left-hander and was a second-round pick out of high school. He’s pitched in 106 minor league games. Leake is right-handed and was a first-round pick out of college. He’s pitched in no minor league games.

    Both were impressive in the spring debuts yesterday.

    Wood went two innings, striking out one and walking one. Leake went a perfect inning with a strikeout.

    “Absolutely, it’s always good to go out there and pitch well,” Wood said. “To get that first one of the way, it takes a load off. Now, you just keep going day to day and get better.”

    Wood and Leake both took their debuts in stride.

    “I wasn’t really nervous,” Wood said. “It’s another game. You got out and try to get them out.”

    “I didn’t really feel different,” Leake said. “Pitching is pitching. You just want to get them out as fast as you can to minimize pitches. Camp’s been fun to get to know guys and see what it’s like,” Leake said. “When I younger, I dreamed of being at this point.”

    Neither has much of a shot of making the club out of spring. But I think you’ll see one of both in big leagues this year or next.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Does it bother anyone else that Leake is characterized as someone short on stuff? He can bring his in the mid-90's, his stuff is fairly filthy, and his curve is strong.

    But, because he chooses to throw low 90's with his fastball so that he gets that pretty serious movement, he gets lumped into that BOR pile o' meh.

    He's got not just good stuff, but great stuff.
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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by camisadelgolf View Post
    Where is your fastball data from? I believe his velocity is better now than it was a few years ago.
    From watching him pitch last season.

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    From watching him pitch last season.
    Are you guys talking about Ondrusek or Wood? I know Wood is in the 88-91 mph range but I thought Ondrusek threw in the low-to-mid 90's?

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    Re: Pitching duo shine in debut (article on Mike Leake and Travis Wood)

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine View Post
    Are you guys talking about Ondrusek or Wood? I know Wood is in the 88-91 mph range but I thought Ondrusek threw in the low-to-mid 90's?
    I thought we were talking about Wood, but I apparently I shouldn't watch MacGyver while posting on Redszone. If we were talking Ondrusek, then he is 92-94 with the ability to get up to 97.


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