Johnny Cueto didn’t appear to feel any effects from a nagging shoulder injury his last time out, but that hasn’t prevented Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker from keeping a close eye on his ace.
Cueto could further alleviate Baker’s concerns with another solid performance against the host Arizona Diamondbacks as the teams begin a three-game series Friday night.
In his first start since May 31 due to a strained shoulder, Cueto (4-0, 2.08 ERA) came off the disabled list and allowed one run in six innings while adding an RBI on a suicide squeeze in a 5-1 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.
He’s 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA over his last three starts.
“We only had one worry with Johnny Cueto – was his (shoulder) OK,” Baker said. “Other than that, we don’t worry about Johnny Cueto. We have confidence in Johnny in almost everything.”
Baker should feel especially confident sending the right-hander to the mound Friday. Cueto is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA in six starts versus the Diamondbacks, who are hitting .143 against him.
However, Cueto will be monitored closely after each start in order to prevent further injury.
“At least we know what the situation is and the signs,” Baker told the team’s official website. “You’re going to be concerned, for the lack of a better word, probably now until the end of the season.”
The Reds (44-30) are coming off a four-game split of an NL Central showdown with Pittsburgh after falling 5-3 on Thursday. Jay Bruce homered to give him five over his last seven games, all solo shots.
Bruce will look to snap an 0-for-19 slump against NL West-leading Arizona as Cincinnati seeks a fifth straight victory in the series to begin a tough eight-game road trip.
The Reds also will face AL West-leading Oakland twice before a three-game set with Texas after their series with the Diamondbacks, who have won two straight following a four-game skid.
Arizona (39-33) is coming off a 3-1 win over Miami on Wednesday, as Cody Ross hit a pinch-hit three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie.
“It hasn’t been too often this year that I’ve contributed, so it feels nice,” said Ross, who had gone hitless in his previous 13 at-bats.
Arizona’s starters have largely done their part by posting a 2.14 ERA over the last six games, though the team has averaged 2.3 runs in that stretch.
“Our pitching has done great keeping us in games even though we haven’t scored many runs,” first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who is hitting .143 over his last 13 games, told the team’s official website. “They’ve done a good job keeping it close and giving us an opportunity to score at the end.”
Wade Miley, who went 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA over his first seven starts but has gone 1-5 with a 6.47 ERA in seven outings since, takes the hill Friday.
Miley (4-6, 4.64) allowed six runs, though only one was earned, in six innings of Saturday’s 6-4 loss at San Diego.
“When things don’t go your way, it’s tough,” catcher Miguel Montero said of Miley.
The left-hander made two starts against the Reds last season, giving up three runs and striking out six in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-3 win July 16 before falling 5-2 on Aug. 28 after allowing three runs in seven innings.