CINCINNATI -- During Spring Training, there was a list of contenders for the vacant fifth spot in the Reds' rotation that seemed longer than the line for funnel cake at a state fair. Right-hander Sam LeCure's name was never near the front of the line, or really even near it. But when there became a need for a starter to replace the injured Homer Bailey, it was LeCure who got the call first -- ahead of Travis Wood, Matt Maloney and Aroldis Chapman -- when he was summoned from Triple-A Louisville. LeCure, 26, will make his Major League debut for the Reds on Friday vs. the Astros.
"It's reality. You start to understand they have the guys that they like," LeCure said of his being under the radar. "It's not to say they don't like me. There are guys ahead of you and that's just the way the game is. You deal with that but that can't take you away from your game. You hear talk about guys forcing the hand of the organization. I was down there throwing the ball well." In nine starts for Louisville this season, LeCure was 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA, 15 walks and 51 strikeouts in 60 innings. In his last start vs. Scranton-Wilkes Barre, he threw a one-hit shutout for a 5-0 win. LeCure was named the International League pitcher of the week after he tossed 16 scoreless innings over his last two starts. "He's been pitching the best," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Houston generally does better against left-handers than right-handers. Maloney has been pitching well, too. Chapman has a blister. You want to go with who's been pitching and throwing the best. You try to have a guy here that's earned it as often as possible. You can't always do it." Bailey was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with right shoulder inflammation. Reliever Enerio Del Rosario was called up from Louisville to take Bailey's roster spot. That means a corresponding move will be made on Friday to open space for LeCure on the 25-man roster. LeCure made the drive up from Louisville to Cincinnati and arrived in the Reds' clubhouse on Thursday afternoon. It was the culmination of a long journey to the big leagues that began when he was picked in the fourth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Texas. Had he not been declared academically ineligible for his junior year at Texas, LeCure might have been taken higher. As a sophomore, he was the Longhorns' best pitcher. "Evidentially I made an impression on somebody my sophomore year," LeCure said. "The only benefit I guess it was another year without wear and tear on my arm. That was the positive outlook I tried to give myself." LeCure's Minor League numbers before this season weren't remarkable at 39-33 with a 3.79 ERA. But he added a sinkerball to his repertoire and altered his approach to hitters. "This year has been a little different in the fact that I'm showing them everything early," LeCure said. "They have to respect four pitches, assuming I'm throwing them for strikes that day. When they have to think of four pitches rather than just one or two, it becomes a whole different animal for them. The odds are not as good in their favor." The Reds had determined earlier this week that either LeCure, Wood or Maloney would replace Bailey. Louisville manager Rick Sweet delivered the good news to LeCure on Wednesday night. "He called and said, 'Hey, I want you to know you'll be playing for a new manager tomorrow. I said, 'What, did you get fired?' 'No, not that bad. You're going up.' I knew what he was talking about," LeCure said. "It was good to jab back at him. It was pretty funny." A native of Missouri, LeCure is one of eight children in his family and expected up to 30 people to be at Great American Ball Park for his debut. "It was one time that I wished I had a small family," LeCure said. "I've got seven siblings and a bunch of aunts and uncles and everyone that was interested to know how it was going to go. I was kind of phoned out. "I'm happy to be here. I'm looking forward to chewing up some innings when I get the chance and putting us in position to win."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.