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Cincinnati Reds Should Send Mike Leake Down, Give Jeff Francis the Call

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 21: Mike Leake #44 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on before taking the mound to pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Great American Ball Park on April 21, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Leake was arrested earlier in the week for allegedly stealing several items from a downtown Cincinnati department store. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Illya HarrellAnalyst IIMay 13, 2012

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake, he of the 0-5 record and 7.00+ ERA, needs to be sent packing to Louisville.

He has been nothing short of wretched in his six starts this season. In his April 15 start in which he did not pick up the loss, he blew a five-run lead, forcing the Reds to play catch-up in beating the Washington Nationals in 11 innings.

Unlike Homer Bailey, Leake has minor league options left. So before making a trade the Reds should keep it in house and give Jeff Francis a shot at holding down the fifth starter job. A team can't expect much from the five guy, but Leake's numbers thus far are not acceptable.

In 31.2 innings pitched he's posted a 7.11 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, given up six long balls and is allowing an opposition batting average of .313. Other teams are hitting over .300 against him—that may be understandable if he were pitching All-Star games every time out, but he's not.

A knee-jerk reaction may be to bring Aroldis Chapman in to start games and move Leake to the pen. That's not going to happen. Leake would ruin what is the best set of relief pitchers in the National League.

Additionally, moving a guy who has started his entire career is problematic in that they are used to warming up for extended periods, whereas a relief pitcher can get the call from the dugout and be ready within just a few batters.

The best argument against tossing Chapman into the rotation may well be that the Reds are saving his starts for later in the season when, hopefully, they'll need him for a playoff push. Build his arm strength in the pen, and start him in September and, again hopefully, October.

Jeff Francis is a former 17-game winner. Outside of one start, he had an outstanding spring. At 31 years old it's safe to say he's itching for another shot in the bigs. Messybrains.com had this to say in an April 16 piece:

The lefty suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2008 that forced him out of the entire 2009 campaign. He didn’t take the hill again until mid-May 2010 for the Rockies...A serious shoulder injury isn’t like modern Tommy John surgery where many times a player will be back as good as new in a year. Shoulder injuries can doom careers. Just ask former Cubs phenom Mark Prior.

Francis has been tossing respectable numbers in Louisville. Going in to tonight's start vs. Lehigh Valley he has an ERA of 4.17, striking out 47 in 49.2 innings. He would be the only southpaw in the Reds rotation, and best of all he's a ground ball pitcher.

With the Reds playing half of their games in their bandbox home stadium, with one of the best defensive infields in the majors behind him, that is a huge plus.

General manager Walt Jocketty needs to give Louisville a call and get Francis up to join the Reds. Mike Leake has worn out his 2012 welcome.

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