Leake stepping up in pinch with limited bench

Leake stepping up in pinch with limited bench

SAN DIEGO -- Since the Reds went from a five-man to a four-man bench on June 21 to get an eighth reliever in the bullpen, manager Bryan Price has had be economical with his substitutions. That's especially been the case with how he utilizes pinch-runners.

"With a four-man bench, you try not to burn a lot of players and pinch-hit with one guy and pinch-run for the pinch-hitter," Price said on Tuesday. "If you have to do that in the last inning to make it work, that's fine."

Price tries to keep at least one available position player ready in case of injury. Because he started the game against the Padres on Tuesday, Mike Leake wasn't available for that duty. But Leake knows he is otherwise one of the leading options among pitchers to pinch-hit and pinch-run for Cincinnati.

"He is a usable piece and he knows that," Price said. "Typically we don't want to use him the day before he starts, I'd like him to maintain his routine, which is being in here and doing his charting and preparing for his start."

The other three days, Leake is at the ready.

"No doubt about it, he's an early-burn pinch-hitter, a guy that can pinch-run, he can get a bunt down for us if we don't want to burn [Ramon] Santiago or someone else early in the game."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.