The first article I read to compare Reds' right-hander Mike Leake, Cincinnati's '09 1st Round pick, taken 8th overall, to the Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the no.1 overall pick in the '09 Draft, was written by SI.com's Tom Verducci. In an story entitled, "Nationals taking safe road with Strasburg but is it right one?", Mr. Verducci compared the paths the Reds' Leake, a 22-year-old junior out of Arizona State University and the then-21-year-old Strasburg, who pitched for three years at San Diego State University, were taking to the Majors with Mr. Verducci noting that Leake had made Cincinnati's Opening Day roster out of Spring Training while Washington was taking a more cautious approach with Strasburg, who was considered by most a once-in-a-generation talent, sending him first to Double then Triple-A ("in part" to avoid Super Two status) and bringing him along a little more slowly. The differing approaches, as Mr. Verducci wrote, had, "...more to do with perceived value,":
"...like your driving habits were you to drive a new exotic sports car through a speed-trap laden freeway or a rental sedan down an empty stretch of highway."
That particular SI.com article made no mention of the pitchers' shared past, however, but in subsequent articles, including one written by USA Today writer Bob Nightengale entitled, "Rookie Mike Leake bypasses minors, pitching like Reds' ace", Mr. Leake took the opportunity to share his memories of a then-11-year-old Strasburg, who Mr. Nightengale described as, "...a fat kid who cried when coming out of games," or as Leake put it (a little more subtly):
"He was overweight, pouty and used to cry...He did a complete 180...It's amazing how he changed."
Anyone who knows the story behind Strasburg's ascent knows he didn't get into the shape he is today until he got to SDSU and started working with MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and his staff, but with Strasburg offering little of himself in interviews with the press, they've turned to Leake occasionally for commentary on the pitcher the Washington Business Journal yesterday labeled, "the most marketable" player in baseball.
In Yahoo!Sports.com's Steve Henson's July 8, 2010 article entitled, "Same youth team produced Strasburg, Leake", Mr. Henson describes the 11-year-old Strasburg having a minor meltdown and leaving a national tournament both players participated in together on a youth team called the San Diego Sting. One of their teammates, Brett Bochy, a pitcher himself, and the son of former Major League manager Bruce Bochy, offered Yahoo!Sports.com's Mr. Henson a unique perspective on the hype surrounding the two young major league starters, whose careers he's followed since they played together over a decade ago:
"'It’s amazing to see Stephen and Mike living up to it,' he said. 'Mike always had it in him. He just had to grow. Strasburg was a typical kid who couldn’t handle failure at that young age. He just had to grow up. And he did. He doesn’t have to deal with too much failure any more.'"
Nats and Reds fans get to see the two starters pitch, one each, in the next two games of the four game series between Cincinnati and Washington at Great American Ball Park this week. Mike Leake takes the mound for Cincy tonight, opposing returning Nats' starter Luis Atilano, while Strasburg throws tomorrow against veteran righty Bronson Arroyo. It'll be interesting to see who's further along in their development now that they're both in the majors. Leake, (7-1, 3.53) with 5.7 K/9 in 17 starts and 109.2 IP, beat the Nats earlier this season, holding Washington to 7 hits and 1 unearned run in a 5-1 Reds' win. Strasburg, (4-2, 2.03) with 12.6 K/9 over 8 starts and 48.2 IP, has never faced Cincinnati, but he's won two-straight and allowed just 3 ER in his last 17.0 IP...