Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/27/12
CINCINNATI It wasn't as if he needed to do it because Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker already knew what relief pitcher Sam LeCure is all about. But Baker is all about clear psyches for his players and he wanted to be certain. LeCure, a long relief pitcher, wasn't being used, 11 days of inactivity, a forgotten man, anonymous in his bullpen chair. Baker wanted to be sure LeCure knew he wasn't being used because it wasn't a necessity. The starting pitchers were going deep into games, making LeCure's role superfluous. Before Baker could say a word, LeCure, a 27-year-old right hander from Centertown, Mo., said if for him. "If I'm pitching, we're not winning. I understand. I love to pitch, but if we're winning I don't care if I'm not pitching," LeCure told him. Baker smiled later after the meeting and said, "Now that's a team guy. He hasn't had much action, but he knows why and understands and is happy about it." LeCure was a bit unhappy, but it wasn't about not pitching. It was about not pitching well in the few times he did pitch. So when starter Mike Leake didn't make it out of the fourth inning Saturday night, LeCure came in and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings and the Reds beat the Rockies, 10-3. Before Saturday, LeCure had given up runs in three of his previous four appearances, staggered over a 16-day period. And his record was 0-1 with a 4.30 ERA. When LeCure took the mound Saturday, there were gasps in the stands and all over Reds TV land. For a long time, LeCure has resembled cartoon cowboy Yosemite Sam with long, unruly hair and a bushy mustache. When he took the mound Saturday, his head was shaved to near baldness and his mustache was trimmed down to Oliver Hardy size. "I had to do something, try something new," said LeCure. "Change something up. I have not been aggressive enough, not the way I was when I was going good." And LeCure said Saturday night was an eye-opener for him. His aggression returned and he contributed, which he thought he was not doing. "The rest of the bullpen has been great, so that made it easier for me," he said. "They've all been great and we're winning, so I don't feel so bad. The bullpen has been outstanding in spite of some early setbacks." The Reds lost three components of its projected bullpen during spring training when they lost closer Ryan Madson and middlemen Nick Masset and Bill Bray, all still absent (Madson is lost for the season). But Aroldis Chapman, Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek and Sean Marshall stepped it up and General Manager Walt Jocketty did some patchwork by acquiring J.J. Hoover in a trade with the Atlanta Braves and rescued Alfredo Simon off the scrap heap of the designated for assignment list. "J.J. has been great and Simon is nasty, just outstanding," said LeCure. "That's what made me feel bad. I didn't think I was doing my part. And when I went 11 days without pitching, it bothered me." At first, LeCure thought it was because he wasn't effective, "And they were afraid to use me, had lost confidence in me." Then he stepped back and made the accurate assessment: It was because they didn't need to use him. They weren't avoiding him. "And the fact we were winning made it all better, too," he said. "It is like Jay Bruce going 1 for 31. But we won seven of eight games while he was doing that so he didn't feel like he might shoot himself in the foot." What LeCure likes about his bullpen buddies is the versatility and he said, "There isn't a guy in that bullpen who can't go two innings. And that's big. If there are one or two guys who can't pitch on a certain day, every guy who is available can pitch two innings and pick up the slack." LeCure, now bold and bald after Saturday's input, smiled and said, "I've been low man on the bullpen totem pole and it bothered me, even though it is easier to struggle when you're winning." Then he ran his hand over his shaved skull and said, "Right now, it is a good time to be a Redleg."
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