GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds have an important utility player, and he doesn't man an infield or outfield spot.
He is Sam LeCure -- a utility pitcher capable of filling in as a spot starter, mop-up man or fixer in a late-inning nail-biter. Never was LeCure's value more apparent than in Game 1 of last year's National League Division Series against the Giants, when he stepped in for an injured Johnny Cueto in the first inning and got five pivotal outs.
"He's a guy [where] you fall in love with him over time," manager Dusty Baker said. "He wasn't real high on the radar screen around here. But the guy can get out of trouble.
"He's like your epitome of a utility pitcher. He's a spot starter, can pitch long relief, can come in specialty. It took him a while to get his arm conditioned to doing this. You've got to get your arm conditioned to go back to back, especially when he was a starter the whole time."
LeCure has pitched well in some tight situations thus far in Cactus League play. In his first six innings of work, he allowed two runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
"Sam has gotten better," Baker said. "He's worked at it. The main thing is he is not scared. He knows how to pitch."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.