CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price served as the team’s pitching coach from 2010 to 2013. During that time, Price helped oversee the development of a raw right-hander named Johnny Cueto, who would develop into one of the game’s most outstanding pitchers.
Cueto, in his second season with the San Francisco Giants, will face his former team for the second time on Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
“The thing that I enjoyed so much about Johnny is he loved his bullpen work,” Price said. “He didn’t just mosey out to the bullpen and kind of labor through a non-specific routine. He always challenged himself in the bullpen. In the games, he never gave into a hitter. He loved the competition.”
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Cueto went 92-63 with a 3.21 ERA in eight seasons with the Reds, including a 19-win season in 2012 and a 20-win campaign in 2014. He won seven games for the Reds in 2015 before being traded to the Kansas City Royals.
Cueto has been dealing with a blister on his right middle finger, but expects to make his scheduled start.
“He’s doing fine,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I did talk to him in L.A. and he did show it to me. He has kept it under control and that’s a good thing.”
On Sunday, Cueto will face a revamped Reds’ lineup that has been firing on all cylinders since Price tweaked the order at the end of April, by dropping second baseman Jose Peraza into the seventh spot, where he’s batting .429 and moving shortstop Zack Cozart into the two spot.
“I see Jose (Peraza) as a top-of-the-order hitter, but there’s nothing wrong with him sliding down a little bit and getting comfortable down there,” Price said. “Over the course of his career, we’ll see him hitting higher than seventh, but right now it’s a good fit and it’s working well.”
Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman will start Sunday for Cincinnati (16-14), which is looking for its fourth straight win.
Feldman, the Reds’ Opening Day starter, is coming off his roughest outing of the season on Tuesday when he allowed seven earned runs in four innings in a 12-3 loss to Pittsburgh. He’s 1-4 with a 3.86 ERA in four career starts against the Giants.
Since 2008, the Reds are 38-24 versus the Giants. The .613 winning percentage if the best for any Giants opponent during that time with a minimum of 50 games played.
Cueto is 4-1 with a 4.86 ERA in six starts.
San Francisco (11-20) owns a 5-1 record when Cueto starts including wins in two straight. He has received 29 runs of support, by far the most of any Giants starter.
“He truly enjoys the art of pitching,” Price said of Cueto. “He’ll pick guys off first base which is unique for a right-hander. You’ll see him bunt for a base hit. He’ll put the ball in play as a hitter. He always worked on every aspect of the game. That’s kind of what’s led him to the type of career he’s had.”
He’ll need to play stopper for the Giants who’ve been beaten by a combined score of 27-5 in the first two games in Cincinnati.