As spring training came to a close, Sam LeCure wasn’t in the mix for the final spot in the Cincinnati Reds’ rotation, but his stellar performances in Triple-A have given him another opportunity.
Expected to fill in for an injured Homer Bailey(notes), LeCure will try to help the Reds stay alone atop the NL Central in his major league debut and extend their recent dominance of the struggling Houston Astros on Friday night.
LeCure had been in the team’s minor league camp for two weeks when Mike Leake(notes) beat out Travis Wood(notes) for the Reds’ final starting spot. Back spasms helped take Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman(notes) out of that race, and another candidate, Matt Maloney(notes), was also sent to Louisville on April 2.
While those teammates were a little more high-profile, it’s LeCure who been arguably the best among the Reds’ Triple-A starters, going 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA in nine outings. The 26-year-old right-hander also earned International League pitcher of the week honors for his 16 scoreless innings over two starts, including a one-hitter Saturday against Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
With Bailey on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, LeCure joined the team Thursday in anticipation of his debut.
“He’s been pitching the best,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official website. “You want to go with who’s been pitching and throwing the best. You try to have a guy here that’s earned it as often as possible. You can’t always do it.”
Off to their best start in six years, the Reds (28-20) remain one game ahead of St. Louis and improved to 21-9 since April 24 with Thursday night’s 8-2 win over Pittsburgh.
The Reds will try to match their 29-20 mark from 2004 on Friday by earning their 13th win in 14 tries against the NL-worst Astros (16-31) and eighth in a row at the Great American Ball Park. They recorded a three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park from April 27-29 by holding Houston to eight runs.
The Astros don’t appear ready to reverse those trends, having dropped 10 of 13 overall and seven of eight on the road. During Thursday’s 4-3 loss at Milwaukee, Matt Lindstrom(notes) blew his first save in 22 chances - a streak that began last April - in the ninth inning and issued a bases-loaded walk in the 10th.
“I just wasn’t very good today,” Lindstrom told the Astros’ website. “I’ve got to be better next time.”
Wandy Rodriguez(notes) (2-6, 4.33) will try to stop his team’s skid in Cincinnati and avoid dropping a season-high third consecutive start. The left-hander won his previous start against the Reds on Sept. 27 - allowing two runs over six innings, striking out nine and walking one.
He’s dropped his past two outings in Cincinnati despite a 1.80 ERA. Rodriguez was hurt by six unearned runs in one of those starts and got one run of support in the other.
Rodriguez, who lost three consecutive starts for the first time last season, is 4-3 with a 1.85 ERA in his last eight outings against the Reds.