Mike Leake was 22 when he broke into the major leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 2010.
His skipper was Dusty Baker, who managed the Reds through the 2013 season. Leake won 42 games under Baker from 2010-13.
“It was awesome,” said Leake on Tuesday, standing in the St. Louis Cardinals’ clubhouse at Nationals Park. “I couldn’t ask for a better first manager. He treated me like a son, and I appreciate that.”
Leake will face his former manager Wednesday when he starts on the mound against Baker’s Washington Nationals in the series finale in the nation’s capital.
The Nationals’ starter will be Max Scherzer, who won the National League Cy Young Award last season when he was 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA.
Leake was 9-12 in 30 starts for the Cardinals last season — his first with the club. He will be challenged by Washington’s offense, which had 19 hits against St. Louis in a 14-6 win Monday and then 11 more with three homers in an 8-3 victory Tuesday.
“I feel like I had a pretty good spring. I look forward to facing these guys,” Leake said. “It is a tough lineup that can hurt you at any time. You have to be ready for them. I know they are led by a good manager.”
Leake has enjoyed success in his career against the heart of the Washington order.
Second baseman Daniel Murphy is hitting just .238 against him in 21 at-bats, while first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has an average of .211 in 19 at-bats. Murphy had four hits and drove in five runs Tuesday.
Right fielder Bryce Harper is just 3 for 13 against Leake, but two of those hits are homers. The best everyday hitter for the Nationals against Leake is left fielder Jayson Werth, who is batting .292 in 24 trips to the plate. He hit one of the homers Tuesday.
“A veteran guy,” Cardinals catcher Eric Fryer said of Leake. “In the spring he was effective in getting ahead of the hitters. When he keeps it on the ground, he is very effective.”
“I will be watching the first couple of days from the side, and if I need further evidence of what I can’t see I will go to the tape,” Leake said of facing Washington. “I have faced most of these guys.”
Scherzer will make his second start of the year after he won at Philadelphia on Friday.
The right-hander from St. Louis went 6 2/3 innings and gave up two runs and four hits in his first start of the year.
Scherzer hopes to get support from an offense that has included a rare hot start from Zimmerman, who hit a career-low .218 last season but is batting .367 this year.
“I am just excited to get off to a good start,” Zimmerman told 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday. “Not many times in my career I have gotten off to a good start. Our lineup is so good.”
The Nationals own the top batting average in the league, but they lost shortstop and leadoff hitter Trea Turner to the disabled list Monday. He was replaced as the leadoff hitter by Adam Eaton, who had three hits Monday.
“Our lineup is so good. Eaton jumps right into the leadoff spot,” Zimmerman told 106.7 The Fan. “It is a fun lineup to be a part of.”