Mike Leake spent some of his offseason golfing, some of it doing nothing. The latter is exactly what the Reds wanted.

"I didn't start throwing again until December 16," Leake said. "I gave myself about 2 1/2 months off. It got to a point last year where I was a little tired, so I just needed to take a break."

Right-hander Leake, who made the Reds as a 22-year-old rookie last year, knows he must prove himself again in 2011. Reds pitchers and catchers report to spring training Wednesday in Goodyear, Ariz.

Leake was the Reds' most effective starter early last season, going 5-0 into mid-June. Fatigue and opposing hitters gradually caught up with Leake, who was shut down in late August with an 8-4 record and 4.23 ERA.

"The biggest adjustment was the long season," Leake said. "We were three months in and I was wondering, wow, we still have three months to go. Usually my season is over after three months."

Leake was the Reds' No. 1 pick in 2009 out of Arizona State. Listed at 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, he acknowledges being closer to 5-11, and some scouts compare his pitching style and makeup to Greg Maddux. Maddux, whose career ended in 2008, was not overpowering but used location, changing speeds, and movement to win 355 games.

"I'll never probably get to his level, but it's a nice person to learn from," Leake said. "He never really overpowered people. He just got early outs, and then he'd pick their brains. Once I get into a groove I can pick apart hitters."

Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto are virtual locks for the Reds rotation. Leake, Homer Bailey and Travis Wood are the top candidates for the Nos. 4-5 slots. The loser, as it were, probably goes to the bullpen.