The Cincinnati Reds made it official on Wednesday morning, naming Mike Leake as the starter for Game 4 against the San Francisco Giants at Great American Ballpark.
The nod is a big one because Leake originally was not on the NLDS roster. He'll take Johnny Cueto's place after the ace strained his oblique in Game 1. The transaction has lasting repercussions because it'll keep Cueto from being eligible for the NLCS roster if the Reds make it that far.
Cincinnati currently leads San Francisco two games to one and needs one more victory to reach its first NLCS since 1995.
"It was a very, very difficult decision," [GM Walt] Jocketty said. "Our medical staff felt at best Johnny would be able to pitch one game the next series. We thought the importance of this game and rest of series was more important than one game.
"It's still tough to take a potential Cy Young guy off the roster."
Not only did Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker need to make the decision to remove Cueto, but they also faced a choice between starting Leake and Mat Latos. Starting Leake over Latos puts the weaker pitcher on the mound, but it also guarantees that Latos — who pitched four innings of relief in Game 1 — would be pitching on full rest for an if-necessary Game 5 on Thursday.
It's a risk either way as Leake was 4-5 with a 5.54 ERA and 17 home runs allowed at GABP this year. The payoff, of course, would be Leake winning Game 4 over San Francisco's Barry Zito and Latos being saved for a start in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday. Elsewhere in the Reds lineup, Scott Rolen and Ryan Hanigan head to the bench for the first time all series and will be replaced on the field by Todd Frazier and Dioner Navarro. While that switch might look like a purgatory trip after Rolen and Hanigan messed up big time in the 10th inning of Tuesday's 2-1 10th inning loss, Baker told the media otherwise. Rolen is giving way to the NL ROY candidate because it's the day after a night game and Hanigan only caught Leake twice this season.
Of course, if those two and the rest of the Reds squad hadn't blown it in Game 3, they wouldn't be in this position and Cueto would still be eligible for a start in the NLCS. Cincinnati has a challenge on its hands, because that was a loss that did more than just potentially delay the inevitable. It created problems down the road.