Leake still in Baker’s plans

With Aroldis Chapman in camp working to be in the rotation, much speculation is centered on what might become of last year’s fifth starter, Mike Leake.

Actually, this is the exact same scenario the Reds had last year.

“I’ve already talked to him. We weren’t sure until up to the end [of spring] last year,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said Thursday morning. “We’ve got six starters. He’s still in my plans.”

Chapman was moved to the bullpen at the end of last spring when injuries forced the change. The Reds wound up having no injuries to the rotation and used the same five starters throughout. It would be delusional to think they’d be that fortunate two years in a row, so the Reds are definitely not taking any chances. Leake had an inconsistent season last year as he went 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA.

“The toughest years in the big leagues are the third, fourth and fifth years when everybody knows you,” Baker said. “They know you’re not getting your breaking ball over. They know you follow your changeup with a fastball. Now it’s up to you to readjust. There is no room for a marginal or bad year. People just want to take you off to the side. Every pitcher I know has had a bad year or two.”

“He’s a Maddux type. I made a call to Greg and Greg talked to him about some things.”

*On the health front: Bronson Arroyo has been sick the last day or so and not fully participating. Pitchers Justin Freeman, Kyle Lotzkar and Nick Masset are not working from a mound yet. In Masset’s case, he still rehabbing from 2012 shoulder surgery. Masset’s throwing program started out as three days a week on flat ground, but he’s slowly moving forward. There is no timetable for when he might work from a mound.

“Now I’m starting to build up to throwing every day,” Masset said. “It’s not exactly where I want it to be right now. But I understand that it is a process. I’m really going to have to grind through the aches and pains to build arm strength to get my arm able to throw consistently without having any setbacks.”

*As pitchers threw in the bullpen on Wednesday, Baker spent most of the sessions behind the catchers looking through the fence. What was he looking for?

“I’m just watching movement, watching how the catcher is setting up, watching also the communication between catchers and the pitchers,” Baker said. “You can tell that if they’re gaining trust or if they need to gain some trust in the catching corp. From a hitter’s standpoint, if I see a guy tipping pitches or showing me the ball too soon. Which ones you’d like to hit off of or which ones you probably wouldn’t like to hit off of.”

3 Comments

Mark , that last paragraph was an interesting insight. One is I forgot how smart Dusty was as a player and being able to read pitchers. Two does his interest have anything to do with pitchers not warming up to Mesoraco?

I didn’t take that as a shot at Mesoraco. He was just observing and I asked what types of things he looks or listens for when he does stand back there.

Thanks for the response and for the article. That was interesting to see some of the subtle things managers have to do during spring training.

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