Price believes Leake can continue to improve

Price believes Leake can continue to improve

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Both Arizona residents, Reds manager Bryan Price and starting pitcher Mike Leake met for lunch over the winter about what comes next.

Leake had a career year in 2013 and enters 2014 without worrying about making the big league club for the first time after four years of battling. Price made it clear to Leake he believed he could achieve more success.

"You can really look at 2013 for Leaker and go, 'Boy, he's arrived. He's a guy now. We should be able to expect this.' My feel was to forget the expectations," Price said on Sunday. "Let's work and continue to strive for greatness. Be as good as you can be. There are no limitations on his ability to be a guy we feel as good about as anybody in our rotation every fifth day when he takes the ball."

Leake, 26, was 14-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 31 starts and 192 1/3 innings -- all career bests.

In 2010 camp as a non-roster invitee, the 2009 first-round Draft pick surprised by making the team and skipping the Minor Leagues. Because of the team's depth, he remained an underdog in roster bids in both 2011 and '12. Last spring when closer Aroldis Chapman was possibly going to move into the rotation, Leake was viewed as the possible odd man out.

Price doesn't believe that Leake will ease up, nor will he need extra motivation.

"He's never been a guy that's backed off of the effort level," Price said. "His preparation has always been excellent. I think he's fully committed. He's a guy who looks forward to more responsibility. I think he's going to embrace this."

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.