Suddenly flush with capable rotation options, the Reds have decided to move Mike Leake to the bullpen in order to keep the 22-year-old rookie’s innings count in check.
Leake went 7-1 with a 3.45 ERA through his first 18 starts after the 2009 first-round pick skipped the minors completely to crack the Opening Day rotation, but he’s 1-3 while allowing 21 runs in 21 innings over his last four outings.
Dusty Baker indicated that the move is a temporary one, but declined to provide any sort of timetable for Leake’s return to the rotation:
This way we can see where we are. It doesn’t take him long to get loose. We can monitor his innings. It shouldn’t be a horrible transition. It depends. It depends on how far we go into September and hopefully into October.
Baker is known for being very tough on young pitchers, so it’s good to see him buying into the idea of easing Leake’s workload down the stretch. Even with Leake now a reliever the Reds still have a rotation that includes Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey, and Johnny Cueto, and they’re expected to get Aaron Harang back from the disabled list soon as well.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.