GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Since his debut in the Majors in 2010, Reds pitcher Sam LeCure has gone from being a fifth starter to a long reliever to a valued and versatile jack of all trades out of the bullpen.
LeCure, 28, wouldn't have it any other way.
"What I didn't like about starting was all that time that you get to think about what you're going to try to accomplish," LeCure said on Sunday. "Now in the bullpen, I have to be ready at any time. You never know when I'm going to go in. That's exciting for me."
In what was essentially a bullpen day for the Reds staff vs. the Indians, LeCure started and worked two scoreless innings with one hit and one strikeout.
Last season in 48 games, LeCure was 3-3 with a 3.14 ERA, 23 walks and 61 strikeouts over 57 1/3 innings. Of the 31 runners he inherited, 26 were stranded. He had a 1.93 ERA over his final 13 appearances. Twenty of his outings were more than one inning and 12 were at least two. He saw action at least once in every inning from the fourth through ninth, plus some in extras.
Reds manager Dusty Baker places high value on having the right-handed LeCure at his disposal.
"Sam is kind of like my utility pitcher," Baker said. "He can start. He can go long relief. He can go short relief. He can get you out of trouble, like he's done many times. He knows how to pitch. He has a great attitude. He loves to compete. He's not scared or intimidated by anybody or any situation where I call upon him. He's the kind of guy where you see his stuff and it's OK. He pitched his way into your heart and your confidence."
LeCure demonstrated his readiness on a moment's notice in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. After starter Johnny Cueto was injured eight pitches into the game vs. the Giants, LeCure stepped in and worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings to be awarded the victory.
"With me being able to do a number of things, hopefully it will give me some more opportunities and help the club out," LeCure said.
Choo welcomes challenges in center this spring
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Through two exhibition games, it's been pretty routine in center field for the Reds' Shin-Soo Choo. He hopes it doesn't stay that way.
"I want to get a tough play," Choo said on Sunday morning. "I want to make a mistake so I can learn something before the season -- a line drive, a sun ball, something like that. I want to be challenged."
During the first inning of Friday's game vs. the Indians, Choo did a nice job cutting off a hit to right-center field on one hop to hold Carlos Santana to a single. On Saturday vs. Cleveland, he ran down a Jason Giambi drive for a catch near the wall.
No big deal, felt Choo.
"I didn't have any tough plays. Everybody can make those," said Choo, who did not play in Sunday's game.
Choo, a former right fielder for the Indians, is expected to be the center fielder and leadoff hitter for Cincinnati. Even if Choo's not fully comfortable yet, Reds manager Dusty Baker has been pleased with his early progress. And Baker was impressed with Choo's handling of the Santana hit.
"That was a great angle," Baker said. "This guy is an athlete. He has a lot of pride. He works hard. He'll be fine. We just have to preserve his legs."
Reds put windy conditions to use
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- High winds and gusts of up to 30 mph on Sunday had tumbleweeds tumbling, flags whipping and players tested on fly balls.
Reds manager Dusty Baker and his staff decided it was a good day for popup drills and changed the original plan for the day.
"You're going to have to play in those conditions sooner or later," Baker said. "The one element most players don't like is the wind. They can take cold and they can take heat. There's very little preparation for the wind. That's why I want to do popups and relays today. When you get into San Francisco, New York, Chicago most of the time, you're going to have to prepare the best you can for the wind."
Baker is understanding of young pitchers' nerves
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Through the first two games of spring, Reds pitchers gave up a total of 12 walks -- six in each game. However, with the exception of Alfredo Simon, none of the pitchers are expected to be on the big league roster on Opening Day.
"We just have to tell a lot of these young guys to relax," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday. "They were throwing strike after strike in the bullpen. You have to remember a lot of them are kids. Some of them played 'A' ball and here they are playing in a big league game. As much as you don't like it, it's a learning period. Sometimes you wonder if you're expecting more than they're capable of doing, at this time -- especially their first times out."
With games starting earlier than usual because of the World Baseball Classic, Baker has been holding back using veteran pitchers for a few days so they aren't overused before the season starts. Mindful of being a young player once, he is being patient.
"I try not to forget what it was like sometimes to be a young player and try to be tolerant," Baker said. "The worst thing as a manager or coach that was a pretty good player is to be greater in your own mind than you really were. You need to remember that you made mistakes too."