JUPITER, FL. (KMOV.com) -- Working the corners, changing speeds and using his entire pitch repertoire, Mike Leake carved up the Minnesota Twins in his second spring training outing Monday.
After a workmanlike four innings in which he fanned six and yielded just a single, Leake said what fans saw today was “me in a nutshell.”
Cards’ skipper Mike Matheny obviously liked what he saw of the slightly built right-hander and his ability to completely baffle hitters.
“That’s all deception. It’s the ability to start a ball off the plate and bring it on or start the ball on the plate and run it off. Being a little different," Matheny said. "He has good, live stuff.”
The manager said control pitchers like Leake have a formula for success. “Getting ahead in counts and spreading out the plate. That’s what you see guys do when they can put it where they want to. They aren’t afraid to run deeper into counts and you probably won’t see a lot of balls in the middle of the plate.”
Leake not only knows what he wants to do with the baseball, he has a plan for defeating each batter.
“I attacked hitters and went after them down in the zone. Working the corners. Yadi got me a couple of strikes (by the way he famed the pitches). I saw (his skill at pitch framing) big time today. He got me at least one low strike and a pitch that was called strike three may have been a touch off the plate.”
Matheny said having a pitcher like Leake on a staff is a challenge to a catcher.
"You have a pitcher that can execute so many different things. You have so many different options. Having pitchers like that, (as a catcher) you’re limitless in what you can do," he said. "When you have a pitcher that can throw just about any pitch, to any location, on almost any count, it’s a great test to your creativity.”
The thoughtful, soft-spoken off-season free agent acquisition said he wants to use all of his pitches in the spring so he is ready for April games.
“I’m really not trying to strike out hitters, just looking for quicker outs.” Leake worked quickly and was very economical with his pitches, despite fanning six. “It was nice to get early strike outs. I feel like the game is maturing me.”
Leake said he worked well with Molina and was adjusting quickly to his new catcher.
“Sometimes it takes longer to get in synch with a catcher,” he said, noting that he and Molina seem to get working smoothly together.
Molina’s game-calling genius might be new to Leake, but not to Matheny.
“Yadi is as creative of a game caller as anybody I’ve ever seen,” the Cards skipper says. “I think a pitcher who can make tough pitches with multiple pitches (like Leake) would be the one who’d benefit most from a player as creative as Yadi.”
Matheny said because of Molina’s reputation and acknowledged skill, other benefits accrue as well.
“Only so many catchers have the reputation that they can call something that might be unusual, and the guys believe in it. That there is a purpose to it. Yadi has earned that over time. He can get away with a guy throwing something he normally wouldn’t and he has a chance of it being good.”
Monday’s four-inning start doubled Leake’s previous two innings of work on March 9 against the Marlins when he threw two scoreless innings, surrendering two hits. He said he has not been told where in the rotation he will be once the season starts, but speculation is that he will throw after Michael Wacha.
That mix of hard throwers and control pitchers is intriguing, Leake acknowledged.
“I like to work fast and hit the corners," he said. "That’s me in a nutshell.”