CINCINNATI — Once again too much business transacted in the trainer’s room sent the Cincinnati Reds and manager Dusty Baker scrambling for reinforcements and replacements.
And once again it is Johnny Cueto who is here today and gone tomorrow — back on the disabled list with soreness in his right triceps muscle.
Cueto, the team’s No. 1 pitcher, missed five weeks with the same injury and returned to make two starts. And his last start, five days ago in Pittsburgh, was a shutout.
But Cueto felt that old devil pain creeping back into his upper arm and the Reds decided to pull the plug and let treatment and nature take its course.
To take his start Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies, the Reds recalled Pedro Villarreal, a 25-year-old right hander from Edinburg, Texas.
Baker, ever the Norman Vincent Peale, look at Cueto’s loss with a positive twist and said, “It’s the same thing, the same injury — but not nearly as serious. We’re trying to take the time while it is still relatively early and time to get rid of it, whatever is there.
“He felt it a little bit after he pitched in Pittsburgh and told us about it after the game. He said it was not nearly as bad and we thought just being cautious was the way to go with this thing.
“We are going to wait as long as possible to get it better. He won’t have to go back to square one like he did last time. He’ll continue his throwing program and continue to train. It is better than last time.”
Said Cueto, “I felt it in the last inning in Pittsburgh. It is almost in the same spot. I thought at the moment it was insignificant, but it is so early in the season. I wanted to communicate it to the team so I could pitch later in the season and, God willing, we make it to the playoffs.
“I don’t feel it when I’m playing catch, but I feel it when I’m trying to throw a pitch, when I want to put something extra on it. I don’t have a lot of pain this time and I should be ready by the 16th day.”
The DL move is retroactive to his start in Pittsburgh and he could miss as few as two starts.
Cueto, a 19-game winner last year, has made only six starts and is 3-0 with a 2.17 earned run average.
His stand-in Wednesday is a huge downgrade. The Reds would have preferred recalling left-hander Tony Cingrani, 3-0 with a 1.15 ERA at Triple-A Louisville and 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA filling in for Cueto’s last DL trip. But Cingrani pitched three days ago.
Their next choice was Armando Galarraga, a guy with major league experience and a 4-3 record with a 2.70 ERA at Louisville. But, he, too, pitched within the last couple of days.
That left Villarreal who is 1-3 with a 5.03 ERA in 11 Louisville starts and a troublesome spring training.
“People wonder about Cingrani, but he pitched two days ago,” Baker said. “Villarreal is on the roster and sort of our last resort. We said at spring training we would have to use everybody on the roster. Reports are Villarreal is throwing the ball better — better than spring training, because he had a tough spring training.
“He is the best candidate we had left on the roster and we don’t know what we’ll get until we get it. I remember in San Francisco everybody on the pitching staff got hurt and everybody said John Burkett didn’t have enough fastball, the guy of last resort. Next year he won (14) and the next year won (12) and pitched (15) years and won (166) games. So, you don’t know, don’t know how guys might respond.”
The last time Cueto went on the DL he thought his twisty, back-to-the-hitter Luis Tiant delivery might contribute to his pain and that he might discontinue it.
“If Johnny said it, well Johnny is the one who came up with it (last year) in the first place,” Baker said. “And he has been successful doing it. Whether he continues to turn or uses an abbreviated turn, whatever, that’s between him and our training staff.”
Cueto said he asked the medical staff and was assured he can continue to be Luis Tiant, Jr.
“They explained that it wasn’t caused by my delivery,” said Cueto. “If it was the oblique (he injured in the playoffs last season), then I would think more about it.”
Cueto’s second visit to the DL follows the Reds losing outfielder Ryan Ludwick on Opening Day, relief pitcher Nick Masset during spring training, relief pitcher Sean Marshall (twice), outfielder Chris Heisey and catcher Ryan Hanigan. Second baseman Brandon Phillips has been out this week after being hit in the left forearm with a pitch Saturday night, but he is expected to return soon.
“Every year is different,” said Baker after watching a nearly injury-free 2012. “You just hope the results are the same. Some years you have very little injuries and some years you have a lot of injuries and have to plug in the holes.
“Here we are, still, with all the changes we’ve had to make and all the close, tough losses, we still have the second-best record in baseball, even if it doesn’t seem like it.”