CLEVELAND — From his chair in the bullpen, where he may or may not receive a phone call to go to work, relief pitcher Sam LeCure owns one of the best seats in the house to observe the pitcher’s mound.
That’s where he was, as always, Wednesday night in Progressive Field, watching Cincinnati Reds starter Bronson Arroyo work against the Cleveland Indians.
And he watches intently to see the stylings of all the Reds starters: Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake.
As far as LeCure is concerned, if there is a better rotation in baseball right now he hasn’t seen it. And, yes, he is prejudiced toward his teammates, but there are numbers to back it up.
In the last 15 games, Reds starters haven’t lost a game. Not one. They are 9-0 with a 1.95 earned run average with 12 quality starts. That is perfection personified.
For LeCure, who loves work, it means he is baseball’s version of the Maytag repairman, “Because nobody needs a whole lot of help.” But when called upon, LeCure is ever ready — 1-0 with a 1.27 ERA for 19 appearances over 21 1/3 innings.
And LeCure quickly adds a sixth man to the theme, Tony Cingrani, the guy who replaced No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto for nearly five weeks while Cueto was on the disabled list. Cingrani was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA as Cueto’s efficient stand-in.
“When Johnny went down there was big concern about it,” said LeCure. “There would have been concern with anybody in the rotation, but when it is your Opening Day starter, it’s worse. But Cingrani did a great job.”
Obviously, LeCure, who is used to anonymity in the bullpen (middle relief pitchers are noticed only after failures), is a fan of the Little Man — rookie Cingrani and No. 5 starter Mike Leake.
“The guy who is under the radar too much is Leake,” said LeCure. “He has been going deep into games and has been giving us a chance a win his last several times out.”
Can there be a better No. 5 starter in baseball? In his last three starts, Leake has given up one earned run during a period of 21 innings during which he gave up 17 hits, walked three and struck out 17.
“As for all five guys, when you have them all going six, seven and eight innings, that really shortens up the game and saves the bullpen — they’ll be fresher when they are used and be put into situations in which they are more comfortable,” said LeCure.
LeCure gave the baseball mantra, the slogan by which all teams live or die: “We all know it. Pitching wins. And with the five guys we have, it is going to be hard for all five of them to be off their game five games in a row. Any one of them can stop a losing streak at any time.”
The Five Guys (without the fries) are all right-handed, but they are different enough in style, speed and pitch repertoire to keep the opposition bothered, bewildered and baffled.
And what does Lecure like about each of the starters?
“Cueto (2-0, 2.76)? I love the way Johnny Cueto competes and I’ve always enjoyed watching him pitch,” said Lecure. “He goes out there and won’t give an inch and his ball moves all over the place. I don’t think he is capable of throwing anything straight. He is a huge competitor.”
“Leake (4-2, 3.02)? I love the way he competes also — all of them are great competitors in their own way,” he said. “He understands what he has to offer and will use that to make them put the ball in play, keep it on the ground and keep the defense active.
“Arroyo (5-4, 3.39)? There is nobody like Bronson and that’s what I like about him,” said LeCure. “He is so unique in his style. He has a relief pitcher’s mindset, which is good. After he pitches, he forgets about it the next day and is ready to move on to the next one. That’s a great attribute that a lot of starters don’t have.
“Bailey (3-3, 3.08)? He is different from the style of pitcher that I am. What I love about Homer is that the deeper he goes into a game, the more he smells blood. He gets stronger as the game goes on and he has a special, special arm.
“Latos (5-0, 3.01)? Mat is a bit of an enigma to everybody, the different way he goes about things,” said LeCure. “I love his stuff. As he continues to grow, well, I don’t think he understands how good he can be. I love his room for growth. Sometimes it is even frustrating because I understand how good he can be. He is still young and he’ll still learn about himself from start to start.”
When they make quality starts, the Reds are 6-0 behind Leake, 6-1 behind Arroyo, 6-2 behind Latos and 5-2 behind Bailey, the epitome of quality control.