Cueto and Bray return

For the most part, Johnny Cueto looked pretty decent as he returned to action for the Reds following his stint for the Dominican in the World Baseball Classic.

Cueto gave up one earned run and four hits with one walk and two strikeouts against the Blue Jays.  The 23-year-old threw 73 pitches, with 42 strikes. Batters received first-pitch strikes 11 of 18 times.

A long first inning, including a nine-pitch at-bat with Scott Rolen, had Cueto use a total of 24 pitches. Cueto got Rolen to strikeout on a fastball outside the strike zone and returned to throw nine pitches total in the second inning.

“Johnny looked good,” catcher Ryan Hanigan said. “I was impressed with his ability to throw his fastball under the hands of righties on a consistent basis when we needed that pitch. He changed speeds well. I would have liked to see him get ahead a little bit more but what was positive for sure was when he did get into trouble, it wasn’t often, he didn’t panic and made pitches. He didn’t make mistakes when guys were on base.”

  • Reds manager Dusty Baker said the other day that Cueto would be the Reds’ No. 4 starter.
  • Question for you — does anyone think Cueto will move forward in his sophomore season? Any concerns after he went 9-14 as a rookie?
  • Reliever Bill Bray followed Cueto and worked one scoreless inning with two hits, one walk and one strikeout. Bray hadn’t pitched in eight days before he was bothered by a sore left hamstring. The last outing was his first one because he started late with a sore shoulder.

“The hamstring is great. Everything is good,” Bray said. “My shoulder was good 2 ½ weeks ago. I decided to go running in the outfield one day and it popped. I was kind of like ‘what next?’ But I couldn’t control that. It’s just great to be back out there.”

  • Nick Masset, the fifth starter candidate behind Owings and Bailey, gave up two earned runs and four hits over 2 2/3 innings. Masset walked three and struck out four. Not a great line but I can’t offer much insight since I was in the clubhouse during much of his outing. But that’s three lackluster games in four tries and I have to imagine he’s pitched himself out of the picture for the No. 5. He has a 6.75 ERA going so far.
  • Toronto won the game, 5-4, in the 10th inning. Carlos Fisher gave up a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th. It was the first run Fisher gave up after working 3 2/3 scoreless innings over his previous three appearances. 



I absolutely think Cueto will make progress this year. He’s not going to put up a sub 4 e.r.a, but hopefully will cut down on walks and homers, and increase his innings pitched. I personally don’t care one bit about his record. W-L has very little to do with the pitcher.

He might go through a slump but withy the quality catchers, I can’t see it giving him season long issues.

i think he can be better this year if he throws more strikes…he has to work so hard just to get through 5 innings…but the guy has great stuff and is still young. so, youd have to think his elevator is going up.

You hit it dead on, zachattack. Pitch economization will be a huge difference. Cueto threw those 24 pitches in the first and had some trouble. But the nine-pitch, seven-strike second inning was exactly what he should do this season. When you have stuff like Cueto, the instinct is to go for strikeouts, which equals lots of pitches.

Are we due a mailbag anytime soon? I’m curious what the odds are of the Reds carrying both Bailey and Owings on the roster, with one of them working out of the bullpen. Also, I’d like to know what becomes of Masset. He’s out of options, right? (I’d have e-mailed my questions, but I couldn’t figure out how to send them to you.)

Given that it’s the Reds and not some functional team, I’m sure it won’t happen, but it would be nice if they decided to put the best team on the field this year rather than the most convenient team. If Bailey and Owings are the better pitchers (and they are), they shouldn’t just keep an ineffective guy like Masset in the bullpen solely because he’s out of options.

We’ve been screaming for years for the Reds to put the best team on the field. Sadly, they never do. I’d like to be pleasantly surprised and always have hope things will be different, but you know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…

I completely agree. Masset has clearly not done enough to make this club. I don’t want to see some BS explanation as to why he will work as a “long reliever”, when the reality is he is out of options. If Opening Day was tomorrow, I would like to see Bailey and Owings on the roster.


The only point I would disagree on is making Bailey the longman in the bullpen. For such a young pitcher, I’m not sure it’d be the best thing for his development. He might be better served to be pitching every 5 days, even if it’s in AAA. Having said that, I’d much rather have him on the opening day roster than Masset.

I think Cueto will definitely improve upon last year’s numbers. I felt like most of his problems last year came when he lost his composure on the mound. As he gets more starts in the majors, surely the sorts of mental lapses that got him into trouble during his rookie season will be fewer and farther between. Maybe some more time spent around Aaron Harang, a guy that shows absolutely no emotion on the mound, will be a positive influence.

It looks like today’s performance was a step in the right direction! Good job, Johnny!

I’m a huge Cueto fan, but I must admit that I have concerns. I think his youth will result in some of inconsistencies he demonstrated a year ago. He is a sensative player and has trouble controlling his emotions at times. I read a great article last year (Eric Mack in CBS that explained that pitchers tend to make the transition and begin to have consistent success during their 3rd year of pitching in the Majors. I think Cueto will probably follow this trend. But that’s not to say that he won’t do a good job in 2009. Keep in mind, he is our 4th starter. I think a year comparable to last year should be considered a success for his level of development.

Using this same logic, I expect Micah Owings to have a huge year in his 3rd year in the Majors. As Mack argues in his article, the 3rd year is important because “a pitcher’s prime begins after he has a number of starts under his belt. The arm needs to be conditioned for 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings and it’s around the third full year that his arm, mind and feel for the league and craft combine for a breakthrough.” Owings was thought of very highly in the Diamondbacks’ system for quite a while and this is his third year in the Majors. He should be developing more maturity and I expect him to pitch well.

In regards to Masset, I am also frustrated by his Spring Training results and I have also wondered what can be done with him. However, let’s think about the situation of last year’s Spring Training. Jeremy Affeldt began the Spring competing for the 5th starter slot and was terrible. After the Reds took the pressure off of him by telling him he would be in the bullpen, he started pitching better and was a consistent reliever for us during the regular season. I anticipate that Masset will start the year in the bullpen and we need somebody like him to work as a long man (all of our other relievers are strictly 1-inning pitchers). Also, we still have to see if Bray recovers from his shoulder and hamstring problems. If he is not healthy, Masset and Bailey could both start the year in the bullpen.

But, really, isn’t it nice to finally have some depth in our pitching staff?!

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