SF@CIN Gm4: LeCure fans three over 1 2/3 scoreless

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds have an important utility player, and he doesn't man an infield or outfield spot.

He is Sam LeCure -- a utility pitcher capable of filling in as a spot starter, mop-up man or fixer in a late-inning nail-biter. Never was LeCure's value more apparent than in Game 1 of last year's National League Division Series against the Giants, when he stepped in for an injured Johnny Cueto in the first inning and got five pivotal outs.

"He's a guy [where] you fall in love with him over time," manager Dusty Baker said. "He wasn't real high on the radar screen around here. But the guy can get out of trouble.

"He's like your epitome of a utility pitcher. He's a spot starter, can pitch long relief, can come in specialty. It took him a while to get his arm conditioned to doing this. You've got to get your arm conditioned to go back to back, especially when he was a starter the whole time."

LeCure has pitched well in some tight situations thus far in Cactus League play. In his first six innings of work, he allowed two runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts.

"Sam has gotten better," Baker said. "He's worked at it. The main thing is he is not scared. He knows how to pitch."

Baker hopes to know Chapman's role within week

Reds have high hopes for Chapman as a starter

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Reds still aren't sure if Aroldis Chapman will be pitching for them in the first inning or the ninth this season, but Dusty Baker hopes to know sooner rather than later.

"I'd like to decide soon and get my team together," Baker said Wednesday. "I don't like having guys in the middle, because that's a bad situation when you're in the middle of anything, an unknown. Then everyone else is in an unknown situation. I don't think that's fair to him or us."

Baker acknowledges that the decision is not his and his alone. It is an organizational decision in which he'll certainly have input. It is apparent that if Baker had his way, Chapman would remain a closer, but as an organization, the Reds recognize the value the Cuban left-hander could have as a starting arm.

"I'd like to make a decision in the next week or so," Baker said, "so I can get my team together."

One concern with converting Chapman would be his workload, as he pitched just 71 2/3 innings last season and would, therefore, be limited in terms of how many innings he could pitch as a starter. The Reds would have to be creative with how they dole out the starts to Chapman.

"[The workload] is always a concern," Baker said. "You're on uncharted waters."

Chapman is scheduled to start Saturday against the Giants in a split-squad game. His competition for the No. 5 starting slot, Mike Leake, will start the Reds' other game that day.

In four innings of work thus far this spring, Chapman has allowed one run on three hits.

Hamilton sustains mild hamstring injury

Outlook: Hamilton's speed should help him in 2013

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Billy Hamilton tweaked his left hamstring stealing a base last Friday and has been held out of Cactus League activity the last few days.

"He's not ready. Not ready," manager Dusty Baker said. "For a guy who depends on his legs, you don't want to take a chance with this being a chronic thing all year. Guys who run that fast are usually going to have something."

Hamilton was a full participant in Wednesday morning's workout and showed no hitch in his giddy-up walking around the clubhouse. He indicated that the injury is not the least bit serious.

Asked when he might be back in games, Hamilton said, "No idea. Shouldn't be long."