Monday, April 12, 2010

'Cool Hand' Leake

On the right-hand side of the Reds clubouse there are three lockers separated from the rest by a dividing wall and a doorway that leads to a conference room and manager Dusty Baker's office.

It is no coincidence that the lockers are reserved for a trio of starting pitchers. It's also seemingly no accident that this threesome has one personality trait in common.

Actually, three -- Calm. Cool. Collected.

First, there's the Reds' five-time Opening Day starter Aaron Harang -- the ballclub's resident gentle giant, soft-spoken, unflappable.

To Harang's far left is the golden-locked Bronson Arroyo -- part-time rocker, full-time innings-eater, and Key West native.

The newest addition to the Corner of Coolness is rookie right-hander Mike Leake - the long-haired Southern California native who Baker likened to a "little surfer".

Leake, of course, became just the 21st player since the first-year player draft was instituted in 1965 to make his Major League debut without appearing in a minor league game when he started against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

Leake calmly escaped a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the first inning then cruised through 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits. He struck out five and walked seven, the most he's ever issued in a game.

"I should've kept the ball from my seventh walk as a souvenir," said 'Cool Hand' Leake.

While family and friends sweated through Sunday's outing in Section 125 behind home plate (particularly his mother who was visibly nervous), Leake kept his composure.

Had Leake buckled under the pressure and folded amid the magnitude of his moment, he would've been asked to turn in his membership card in the Reds' Joe Cool Club.

As it stands, the 22-year old is stuck between Harang and Arroyo, making him a fixture in the Laid Back Wing.

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