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Reds RHP Leake might enter court diversion

Reds starter Mike Leake will keep his spot in the rotation while he handles a misdemeanor shoplifting charge.

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker decided to keep Leake as his starter for the final game of a series against Arizona on Thursday. Leake was arrested on Monday afternoon at a downtown department store, accused of removing the tags from six T-shirts and trying to steal them.

Baker talked to Leake before deciding to keep him on schedule to start.

"We talked about how he felt and could he handle the pressures of it, and he said yeah," Baker said. "Sometimes when you're in times of trouble, it's easier to go to work than to not go to work.

"I remember when Pete Rose was having problems at home — his dad passed — I asked Pete how he was dealing with it. He said those three or four hours at the park were a sanctuary from his problems. When the game was over, the same problems were there. So hopefully this will be a sanctuary from what transpired this week."

Police arrest reports said Leake removed the price tags from six American Rag T-shirts at a Macy's store on Monday and tried to leave without paying for them. The six shirts were valued at $59.88. Leake makes $425,000 in his second season in the majors.

Leake has not discussed the arrest, other than to issue an apology "for this distraction." He declined to be interviewed on Tuesday, saying he would rather wait until after his start on Thursday to talk to the media.

Leake had his first court hearing on Tuesday before the series opener against Arizona. His lawyer asked to let him enter a Hamilton County diversion program for first-time offenders. If accepted, he would pay a $200 fee, likely perform volunteer work and take a class.

He also would have to acknowledge guilt. His record could be wiped clean once he completed the program. His next court date is May 18.

Baker has thought about the reaction Leake will receive from fans at Great American Ball Park when he starts.

"You're always concerned, but it's going to happen sooner or later," Baker said. "Probably be less adverse fan reaction at home than it would be on the road, you know. We considered that."

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Associated Press writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.