MILWAUKEE -- The possibility of adjusting Reds rookie starter Mike Leake's pitch counts from 100 to 90 during his outings the rest of the season remains a fluid situation.
In his most recent start on Sunday in Houston, Leake had 84 pitches through six innings, then got into trouble with his final 10 pitches while giving up three runs in the seventh for a 4-0 loss. A similar situation occurred on July 9, when he took 83 pitches into the ninth inning at Philadelphia and allowed five runs despite not showing any signs of fatigue.
After Sunday's game, Reds manager Dusty Baker wondered aloud if Leake should be held closer to 90 pitches. Pitching coach Bryan Price said Leake's pitch counts would likely be considered on a case-by-case basis.
"I think it continues to be of great importance to us organizationally that we don't ask this kid to do more than he needs to do," Price said on Tuesday. "We are always going to be concerned with the number of innings and pitches that he throws this year. However, I hate to put a limitation or cap on anybody that's throwing the ball well."
Leake, who made the leap from college to the Majors, is 7-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 19 starts over 121 innings. Assuming 10 more starts, he projects to pitch 185 innings this season. The Reds are looking for him to finish closer to 170 innings but are also willing to be a little flexible.
"I'd like to get to 200 innings if I could. I don't know if they'll allow me," said Leake, who pitched 142 innings for Arizona State last season and an additional 19 innings in the Arizona Fall League. "I'm where I want to be as far as my arm is concerned. It still feels good. Hopefully it will continue to work with me."
Price, Baker and the Reds kicked around the idea of moving Leake to the bullpen to keep his innings down, but they decided against it. With eight more scheduled off-days remaining this season, including three in September, the club believes it can spread out Leake's starts to reach the target innings.
The club adjusted its rotation with Thursday's off-day, pushing Leake's next start back to Tuesday in Pittsburgh, meaning that he'll pitch on eight days' rest.
"Should we find ourselves deep into September and in the hunt, then, hopefully, what we've done earlier in the season will provide us with the opportunity to comfortably allow Mike to continue to pitch as we work towards winning the division," Price said. "Obviously, if our season is prolonged by the playoffs, we'll have to make an organizational assessment of what's best in the long term for Mike Leake and the organization. Those are, hopefully, tough decisions we have to make in early October."