Mike Leake’s(notes) dominance at Arizona State paved the way for him to be a high draft pick, and the Cincinnati Reds figured they’d snagged a future star when they selected the right-hander eighth overall in June.
They certainly didn’t count on him arriving so soon.
Leake will become the first drafted player in a decade to make his major league debut without appearing in the minors Sunday, looking to help the Reds capture the decisive finale of a three-game set against the visiting Chicago Cubs.
There have been quite a few hyped young arms to come through Cincinnati (2-3) over the past few years, from Homer Bailey(notes), Johnny Cueto(notes) and Edinson Volquez(notes) to current phenom Aroldis Chapman(notes).
None of those pitchers did what Leake will do Sunday, when he becomes the 21st player since the draft began in 1965 to bypass the minor leagues altogether when he makes his major league debut. The most recent to do so - Xavier Nady(notes) - just happens to be an outfielder with Chicago (2-3).
“I was there for a week and got one pinch-hit. I was a nervous wreck,” Nady told the Cubs’ official Web site. “At least (Leake) made the team and deserved it. That’s pretty impressive.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker certainly agrees.
“It’s rare,” Baker told the Reds’ official Web site. “Most players don’t have the maturity level. He’s a competitor. He can locate as well as any young pitcher I’ve seen.”
The last Cincinnati players to make their major league debuts without appearing in the minors were Bobby Henrich, Jay Hook and Don Pavletich in 1957.
The 22-year-old Leake comes with impressive credentials. He was 16-1 with a 1.71 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 142 innings last year as a junior at Arizona State, allowing opponents to hit .193. After posting a 3.00 ERA in six games - two starts - this spring, the Reds gave him a spot in their rotation.
“I don’t really have nerves,” Leake said. “I look at it as just another game. Right now, I don’t consider it to be any different. I guess, it really hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It’ll all hit me when I show up in a trivia question.”
The Reds won the series opener Friday in come-from-behind fashion, as Drew Stubbs’(notes) eighth-inning grand slam off Esmailin Caridad(notes) lifted Cincinnati to a 5-4 victory, but Chicago bounced back Saturday afternoon. Kosuke Fukudome(notes), Alfonso Soriano(notes) and Jeff Baker(notes) each homered for the first time in 2010 in the Cubs’ 4-3 victory.
Chicago has scored 17 runs in five games, with 12 coming courtesy of eight home runs. Infielder Jeff Baker insists the long ball isn’t the focus of new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
“Those are just one facet of the game,” Baker said. “Rudy’s a complete hitting coach. He doesn’t get into one area - ‘Hey, we’re going to try to hit homers,’ or ‘Hey, we’re going to try to play small ball.’”
Tom Gorzelanny(notes) (7-3, 5.55 ERA) makes his 2010 debut as he begins his first full season with Chicago. The left-hander was 4-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 13 games - seven starts - after arriving from Pittsburgh on July 30.
He won at Cincinnati in his first start in a Cubs uniform, giving up three hits and one run over 7 1-3 innings - striking out six - in a 6-3 victory Aug. 4.
He was 0-1 with an 18.69 ERA in his two previous starts in Cincinnati.