Grateful for chance, LeCure eyes spot in 'pen

Grateful for chance, LeCure eyes spot in 'pen

Grateful for chance, LeCure eyes spot in 'pen
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- On a given day throughout his offseason, Reds pitcher Sam LeCure would find five things to be grateful for or just thinking about. Then he would articulate it on his ever-growing Twitter feed.

"Hearing -Music -An engine when it starts up -Birds chirping -A baseball hitting the mitt -The sound of silence," a @mrLeCure tweet once read.

LeCure is a ballplayer by trade but doesn't strictly limit his thinking to the 60 feet, six inches between the rubber and home plate. If LeCure finds appreciation in something, he will articulate it. It could be as simple as a sunset in Arizona or more complex issues like quitting smokeless tobacco or seeing one of his favorite bands -- Grace Potter and the Nocturnals -- perform live.

"One day I woke up and thought there was so much in this world that goes unnoticed," LeCure said. "People aren't grateful for some of the simple pleasures that we have. I think it came from going down to the Dominican in winter ball and seeing how those people live. That's really an eye-opener. You don't realize how important little things like fingernail clippers or toilet paper and stuff like that is if you've never lived without it. There are trials and tribulations of life, and one of the ways I felt like I could get through that was focusing on the positive things. I could take some comfort in that."

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When the 26-year-old LeCure is at the Reds' spring complex, however, his mission essentially narrows to one thing -- making the club out of camp.

The Reds likely have two spots open in their bullpen for a pitcher who can go multiple innings and be durable enough to do it multiple times over a stretch if needed.

LeCure has been a starter since he was a fourth-round Draft pick in 2005 out of the University of Texas. But the Reds are already six-deep with starters in a five-man rotation, and the right-hander is starter No. 7 at this point. If he's going to earn a place on the 25-man roster, it will be from the bullpen.

"I think I got my feet wet last year," LeCure said. "I don't think I established myself by any means. Any opportunity I get to pitch in the big leagues -- whatever role it's in -- as long as I show I can get people out. It didn't change my approach in camp. With the innings I have, I'm trying to get outs as quick as possible. I'm not down about it. I still believe I have the ability to start at the Major League level, just not this year with this club. That's OK."

LeCure was called up to the big leagues for the first time in May to replace an injured Homer Bailey and made six starts. He went 1-4 with a 4.86 ERA in those games and had some impressive moments, including winning his May 28 debut vs. Astros.

There was also misfortune in the subsequent starts when the opposition featured All-Star pitchers Chris Carpenter, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez. The Reds were 2-4 in LeCure's start,s but he did have two quality outings.

Via Twitter, LeCure tried to show appreciation that stretched beyond wins and losses while maintaining perspective amid the big leagues.

"Some of those things that I write on there are to keep me that way," LeCure said. "I don't want to get overwhelmed with the lifestyle. You want to be on 'Baseball Tonight' because you're doing well and not for the attention necessarily. Everybody in this room would feel that way."

After being optioned back to Triple-A Louisville and missing two weeks with a groin strain, LeCure eventually returned to the big leagues and made nine relief appearances. He had a 2.31 ERA over the last eight.

"I felt like I learned on the fly pretty good last year," he said. "It was the first time I had come out of the bullpen in my career -- other the tandem system they had in place the first year I was drafted."

Reds pitching coach Bryan Price believes LeCure is built well to be a reliever -- both physically and mentally.

"Once his arm is in shape, he's shown the durability to be able to pitch, take a day off and pitch again," Price said. "He's a strike thrower. He's got good stuff. He can control the running game and be quick to the plate. He's a good fielder. What he really wants to do is have the opportunity to compete. I think he understands he'd prefer to start. But a lot of pitchers break in as relievers, especially on a good club. He can help us in the bullpen and be a significant contributor."

LeCure will be competing with pitchers that include Matt Maloney, Dontrelle Willis, Daniel Ray Herrera and Jared Burton for a bullpen spot.

"Over the past couple of Spring Trainings, I've come out of the bullpen," LeCure said. "I hadn't really counted it, but the more I thought about it, I did get a little more experience than I thought I did. I feel like I can get ready pretty quick. Any job they ask me to do, I feel like I have the ability to do it. How comfortable I am, that will just come with experience. In my situation, I've moved along well as far as how I feel."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.