News and Tribune


March 30, 2014

REDS VISIT LOUISVILLE: Leake mows down teammates in 1-1 tie

Reds enjoy trip to Louisville, ready to begin season today against St. Louis

LOUISVILLE — No matter what happens in 2014, Mike Leake will always have Saturday’s performance at Louisville Slugger Field as bragging rights.

While pitching for the Reds’ AAA affiliate in Louisville but wearing a Reds’ uniform, the fifth-year Reds starting pitcher retired the first 12 Reds’ batters he faced in an exhibition game on Saturday.

In a weather-shortened contest, Leake faced 11 different batters — and All-Star first baseman Joey Votto twice — without giving up a baserunner through four innings.

“He has bragging rights now,” Votto said of Leake. “If he wants to [hold it over the offense’s heads], he’s welcome to.”

Leake said that won’t be a problem.

“I won’t holding it over [their heads], I promise,” he said.

Votto said facing his teammate of four seasons was a strange experience.

“I’d never faced him before in a live game,” Votto said. “It’s crazy facing one of your teammates. You watch him from the outside, then you face him and it’s totally different. Hopefully it’s a long while before I face him again.”

“When you’re facing your peers and your team, it’s not the same, obviously,” Leake said. “You’re not going to be as competitive as if you’re facing another team … but you’re still going to get something out of it.”

The Reds finally earned a run against Leake in the fifth — and final — inning when catcher Brayan Pena drove home Ramon Santiago.

In all, it was an outstanding performance for Leake, who Price said had to pitch after missing a start in spring with a slight abdominal strain.

“I felt good,” Leake said. “I think sometimes the cold weather helps because you don’t try to do too much and overthrow. It backs you down a little bit.”

On the other side was Reds starter Homer Bailey. The former Bat also missed his final scheduled spring outing with a strained groin. He allowed a run in the first when a Felix Perez double drove home Ryan LaMarre. However, the Perez double was the only hit Bailey allowed and the run scored by LaMarre, who walked to open the bottom of the first and reached third when Pena’s throw sailed into center field on a LaMarre stolen base, was the only run he allowed in three innings. Bailey struck out three Bats.

“The key today was we needed Homer and Mike Leake to pitch,” Reds’ first-year manager Bryan Price said. “Mission accomplished there. All in all, it was a good day.”

The trip to Louisville was the first for the Reds since facing the Blue Jays in an exhibition game in 2005 at Slugger Field. Despite the weather being in the low 40’s and the drizzle shortening the game, the Reds said they enjoyed the trip northern Kentucky.

“It was terrific,” Price said. “This is a great opportunity to come in here and be involved with one of the affiliates. The challenge at this time of year is the weather. That was the only negative. The positive is we got to come in here and interact with the Louisville Cincinnati Reds fans. I thought it was great.”

“It’s awesome [for the fans],” Leake said. “It sucks that the weather turned out the way it was, but the [affiliate] cities support our organization and it’s good for them to get to see the big league team when they can.”

Cincinnati’s 2014 regular season begins today against National Central Division champion St. Louis. Over the past few years, the Reds-Cardinals rivalry has been one of the fiercest in baseball.

“We have to take the battle to those guys,” Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said of the Cardinals. “We want to go out and beat them up bad and let them we’re serious.”

The Reds suffered through several injuries, including catcher Devin Mesoroco and pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Mat Latos, in the spring and will not be at full strength heading into today’s opener.

“There are no excuses,” Phillips said. ‘We still have to go out and do our job.”

“It’s our job to perform,” Leake added. “It’s our job to battle every day and play with the cards that have been dealt to us.”

Of course, Opening Day is always a special event in Cincinnati. America’s first professional baseball team has given the permanent privilege of opening each season at home.

“Opening Day is always a beautiful thing,” Phillips said. “I think it should be a holiday in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a baseball city and they really show it on Opening Day. Hopefully we can go out and bring a championship to this city because they deserve it.”

“I enjoy it a great deal,” Votto said. “I’m looking forward to it. I can’t say to see and experience the great things we have in Cincinnati.”


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