Hernandez behind plate for Leake's debut
Reds catcher a part of historic moment in finale
CINCINNATI -- Ramon Hernandez is behind the plate for Mike Leake's historic debut on Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
It was Hernandez's normal turn, but Reds manager Dusty Baker agreed there are some residual benefits to having a 12-year veteran catch the 22-year old right-hander in his Major League debut.
Leake is facing the Chicago Cubs, becoming just the 21st player since the Draft began in 1965 to debut before appearing in a Minor League game.
Despite the magnitude and historical significance of Leake's achievement, Hernandez said he won't alter how he calls Sunday's game.
"I'm just going to let him pitch," Hernandez said. "There's a reason why he's here. We'll set a game plan and just go out and execute. I'll let him decide what works for him, and we'll go with it."
Leake said on Saturday that he'll take just a moment to soak up the atmosphere prior to Sunday's game, then it'll be time to go to work.
"I remember gawking at Willie Mays," said Baker. "There comes a time when you have to get him out."
While "Cool Hand" Leake seemed calm on the eve of his first career outing, Baker knows firsthand what the Southern California native will experience during his much-ballyhooed debut.
"It's like Hank Aaron told me, 'It's OK to be nervous, but don't be scared,'" Baker said. "After a pitch or two, the nerves will be gone. The stakes are a little higher, but it's the same game."
Bruce dealing with early-season slump
CINCINNATI -- Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, who's become increasingly frustrated with his struggles at the plate, met with manager Dusty Baker following Saturday's game.
Bruce, who's batting .056 with no home runs or RBIs, had high hopes for the season.
In 2009, Bruce batted .223 with 22 home runs and 58 RBIs, despite missing two months with a broken right wrist.
While he's making solid contact for the most part, Bruce hasn't been finding the holes.
"This is a real test for him," said Baker. "He apologized for showing anger on the field. That's OK, as long as you don't hurt yourself. He just needs to stay positive and keep his strength. He's swinging at good pitches."
Bruce finished Spring Training strong with a five-game hitting streak, during which he hit .538 (7-for-13) with two doubles and two RBIs.
Baker kept Bruce out of Sunday's lineup, calling it a mental day off.
"He'll be back in there tomorrow," said Baker. "I told him that."
Francisco optioned; lefty Viola designated
CINCINNATI -- After three games and just six at-bats, Juan Francisco was optioned to Triple-A Louisville on Sunday.
The roster move makes room on the Reds' 25-man roster for 22-year old right-hander Mike Leake, whose contract was selected from the Arizona Reds.
As expected, Leake, the Reds' top Draft choice last year, is making his Major League debut on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park.
In addition, left-hander Pedro Viola was designated for assignment.
Francisco was batting .167, with no home runs and one RBI. He fanned four times in Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Cubs.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said the move wasn't as much a demotion, as it was an effort to get the 22-year old Francisco some playing time and regular at-bats.
"They're tricking him," Baker said. "They're doing him the way they did Jay [Bruce] last year. Most of those balls are out of the zone. When he develops some more discipline in the zone, he'll be a monster."
Different locales, much hype for hurlers
CINCINNATI -- The Reds' future will be on display on Sunday afternoon, as two of the organization's most highly touted prospects make their professional debuts -- both in the State of Ohio.
Mike Leake, the Reds' No. 1 pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, is making his big league debut against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park.
Less than a four-hour drive north of Cincinnati, highly touted Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman will make his American professional debut for Triple-A Louisville against the Toledo Mud Hens.
Leake's first pitch is set for 1:10 p.m. ET, while Chapman's game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. You can watch Chapman's debut live on MLB.TV.
It will be rebroadcast on tape delay at 5 p.m. on the Buckeye Sports Network, with additional coverage on MLB Network. Reds manager Dusty Baker will be watching for the results of Chapman's outing.
"I'm tuned into it," Baker said. "But I've got a job to do here first. I'm glad we have these guys in our organization. They'll be pushing the guys here to stay in the big leagues. It's the changing of the guard. It's inevitable."
CINCINNATI -- Reds right-hander Mike Leake collected his first big league hit on Sunday in his first career plate appearance -- a one-out single to center in the third inning off Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny. Matt Maloney was the last Reds pitcher to record a hit in his first career at-bat, singling off Ryan Dempster on June 6, 2009. The last position player to accomplish the feat was Ryan Hanigan, who singled off Ben Sheets in his first career plate appearance on Sept. 9, 2007.
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.