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Surging Leake prepared for trade rumors

@goodforball
June 16, 2019

OAKLAND -- Halfway through June, Mike Leake is pitching exceptionally. He knows what comes next. Trade rumors featuring him will proliferate. Some of them may even be rooted in fact, since multiple contending teams are bound to seek a qualified starter -- one who doesn’t require an “opener” for accompaniment

OAKLAND -- Halfway through June, Mike Leake is pitching exceptionally. He knows what comes next.

Trade rumors featuring him will proliferate. Some of them may even be rooted in fact, since multiple contending teams are bound to seek a qualified starter -- one who doesn’t require an “opener” for accompaniment -- before the Trade Deadline on July 31.

Postseason-hungry teams will note that Leake, now 6-6, pitched his fourth consecutive game in which he lasted at least seven innings on Sunday, as the Mariners surged past Oakland, 6-3.

Box score

They’ll marvel over not only Leake’s durability, but also his command. Against the A’s, he refrained from walking a single batter for the sixth time in 15 starts.

Having already traded outfielder Jay Bruce to the Phillies and slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees, it only makes sense for the Mariners, who are in full-blown rebuilding mode, to trade Leake and his inconvenient contract that guarantees him $16 million this year and $15 million in 2020. There’s also a mutual option for $18 million in '21 that comes with a $5 million buyout.

Leake endured weeks of trade speculation in 2015 before the Reds, his initial Major League employers, traded him to the ambitious Giants, who sought their fourth World Series title in six seasons. Leake did not help San Francisco reach the postseason, but that’s irrelevant now. Some team is bound to believe that he can assist in a push for October.

Better still, Leake is more equipped to ignore trade talk.

“I think that’s the fortunate part of having years in the game,” Leake said. “You get the ability to learn how to do that. I’ve been traded. I’ve been signed as a free agent. I’ve been through it. So it’s definitely something you learn how to do.”

Leake has learned to adjust, on and off the field. He faced the A’s twice earlier this season, allowing six earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. "They think I’m vulnerable," Leake mused.

“They were immediately ready,” he observed. “It seemed like they had a plan against me and were sticking to it. They were ready in the box and waiting on me, it seemed.”

However, aside from homers by Khris Davis and Ramon Laureano in the second and fourth innings, respectively, Oakland did relatively little against Leake during his seven-inning outing.

“He keeps the ball down and everything kind of looks the same as far as speed, but one cuts and one sinks down,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Leake’s pitching repertoire. “He throws just enough curveballs to keep us off-balance.”

Leake’s steady performance complemented the Mariners’ sudden four-run outburst in the eighth inning, which erased Oakland’s 3-2 lead. The rally’s key hit came from Kyle Seager, who ripped a bases-loaded double off Lou Trivino. The triumph enabled Seattle to conclude its three-city, nine-game trip with a 5-4 record.

Seager described the differences between a bases-loaded plate appearance and all others.

The pitcher, he said, “has to be in the [strike] zone a lot more, and you lose a lot of the chase pitches. You don’t necessarily want to bounce breaking balls. There are a lot of advantages [for a hitter].”

No wonder Seager owns a lifetime .333 batting average (33-for-100) with the bases full.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.