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Cincinnati Reds: Why Mike Leake Should Be Used as a Spot Starter in 2013

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Cincinnati Reds: Why Mike Leake Should Be Used as a Spot Starter in 2013
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds' move to sign Jonathan Broxton opens the door for Aroldis Chapman to become the team's fifth starter.

With Chapman moving to the rotation, it seems that Mike Leake will eventually be relegated to a bullpen role. According to MLB.com's Mark Sheldon, no role has been given to Leake and he's been told to prepare as if he were starting.

In a November 29 blog post, beat writer John Fay discussed the innings limit that Chapman will be subjected to with pitching coach Brian Price. Although no specific number of innings was set, it's clear that Chapman will indeed have a limit on the number of innings he pitches in 2013.

If Mike Leake is pitching out of the Reds' bullpen, he's not being utilized correctly. Leake proved to be a capable starter in his first two seasons, pitching to a 20-13 record with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 48 starts.

Leake showed modest improvement between his first and second seasons, lowering his ERA from 4.23 to 3.86 and his WHIP from 1.50 to 1.18. 2012 wasn't what Reds' fans hoped it would be for the 25-year-old righty. In 30 starts, Leake compiled a disappointing 8-9 record to go along with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. 

However, one bad season isn't enough to judge a pitcher on and he can still provide good value to the Reds as a spot starter.

The Reds could learn a lesson from the Washington Nationals and the debacle they went through with Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg was capped at 160 innings in 2012 and once he hit 159 innings on September 7, he never pitched again.

I may be wrong, but the Nationals probably would've liked to have Strasburg for their divisional round matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Giving Leake an occasional spot start could stretch Chapman's innings out, allowing him to pitch deeper into the season and if all goes well for the team, into the playoffs. The move would also pay off for Leake, who could build confidence out of occasional starts.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Leake pitches best when he receives six or more days of rest. In his 15 starts with six or more days of rest, Leake has a 3.59 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in 87.2 innings pitched. 

Keeping Leake and Chapman fresh all season would pay major dividends for the team. Leake could get some work as a starter while Chapman gets to stay fresh all season and pitch in the playoffs.

All five starters combined for 161 of 162 starts, but that can't be counted on every year. Keeping Leake in starting shape gives the Reds a fall-back option if one of the team's five starters goes down with an injury.

Should the Reds use Mike Leake as a spot starter in 2013?

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Before you look to ship Mike Leake out of Cincinnati, remember what happened in the playoffs last year when Johnny Cueto couldn't start against the Giants. Leake had to start and it was a disaster.

Pitching Chapman in every start will render him useless during the playoffs and the Reds should explore every option to keep him available and avoid another disaster like last postseason. 

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