Modest Reds reliever brings veteran presence while quietly dispatching opponents
One of the Reds' radio broadcasters has called Samuel R. LeCure "one of the best relief pitchers you've never heard of."
"I don't know how many people know or don't know who I am," LeCure said. "I know how many Twitter followers I have, but I imagine there are more people than that that have seen me pitch. I guess that's a dubious honor. I guess if you are a reliever and you're doing your job, people aren't going to hear much about you. Usually people hear when you give up a home run late in the game or something like that. So I'd rather people don't know me for that reason.
"I want to just go out there and do my job, just like everyone else."
LeCure may be modest about it, but he is pretty darn good at what he does. Last year, the reliever posted career highs in appearances and wins and a respectable 3.14 ERA, whiffing 61 batters.
LeCure has served in a host of roles for Cincinnati, coming up as a starter, then converting to the bullpen and filling in the blanks in various relief positions. He said there's quite a difference between starting a game and entering it later.
"After I became a reliever, I realized how much time I had to think about five days down the road, rather than keep it a day at a time and focus on my work that day like I do now, rather than try to figure out what I'm going to do when that start comes," LeCure said. "You never know what stuff you are going to have that day -- if your breaking ball or your fastball is going to be good on any given day.
"I think I focused too much on that instead of getting a good day's work in. Being in the bullpen, you have to be focused and ready to go any day. I think that's helped my mindset, just getting to focus on the task at hand rather than getting too far ahead of myself."
But LeCure knows that a strong starting rotation plays a big part in building a strong bullpen.
"In the game today, there's a lot more emphasis on the bullpen," he said. "There are more specialized roles for guys, starting even in the sixth or seventh inning. So the bullpen is important. Last year, people were focused on the fact that we had such a great bullpen. But our starting rotation made all of the starts and threw a thousand innings, and that allows us to be rested and feeling good so that when we do go out there, we're fresh.
"So our bullpen is a product of our starting rotation. It starts with the starting pitcher. He's the one that goes out there and sets the tone -- the deeper he goes into the game, the better he is throwing, the better chance we're going to have of winning. That's the most important position on the field as far as I'm concerned."
See, I told you LeCure was modest.
The heart of the Reds' bullpen is from the heart of America -- Jefferson City, Mo. -- and despite having entered his third full season in the bigs this year, LeCure has commanded a veteran's presence in the clubhouse.
"A lot of these guys on the team were drafted by the Reds, and we played together for years," LeCure explained. "So we all know each other pretty well. We understand what we expect out of each other. We expect guys to be prepared. We expect guys to be professional. We expect to win, you know? I think that's a testament to the organization: how they draft and how they brought guys up through the organization."
It's not just LeCure's teammates who love him, either. The Reds' faithful treat LeCure -- or more specifically, his facial hair -- as a cult sensation.
"That mustache thing has taken on a life of its own," LeCure laughed.
His following proliferated after he and fellow reliever Matt Maloney grew mustaches in 2011. LeCure's mustache has spawned a name (Cornelius), a Twitter account and several T-shirts.
"For whatever reason, people seem to like the mustache around here. I would feel bad if I shaved it now. I don't like to shave very much. It's, it's -- it's not good," LeCure joked.
Something else that isn't good? LeCure doesn't get the attention he deserves around Major League Baseball.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11.