Cueto says he’s ready to return

DAYTON — Is Johnny Cueto ready to shed the green, black and white uniform of the Class A Dayton Dragons and slip back into his more comfortable Cincinnati Reds uniform?
He is so excited about it, he quickly answered the question in English — Johnny on the Spot.
Normally, the Dominican-born Cueto uses a translator to conduct interviews. And after his second rehabilitation start for the Dragons Tuesday, Dayton pitching coach and former major-league pitcher Tony Fossas was there to translate.
And he did just that for the first few questions. But when Cueto was asked, “Do you feel like you’re ready to go back into the Reds rotation?,” Cueto didn’t wait for Fossas and said immediately, “Yeah, I’m very ready.” When the interviewers began laughing, Cueto said to Fossas, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and Fossas, “He’s excited. Too excited.”
For the second time, Cueto pitched in a low Class A Midwest League game, this time facing the West Michigan Whitecaps. He went five innings and gave up no runs, three hits, no walks and struck out four, throwing 58 pitches, 39 strikes.
The only solid hit was a rifle-crack single to right field by Lance Durham, son of former major-league outfielder Leon Durham. Cueto got even the next time he faced him by striking him out.
For sure, he was Johnny Be Good.
“Thank God, everything when really well,” said Cueto, who has been on the disabled list with a sore lat. “He worked with all my pitches and used them just like I would in a game. I approached it as if it was a normal game.”
Actually, Cueto didn’t get enough work and after his five innings he went to the bullpen to throw 23 more pitches.
Asked if it was a difficult time, sidelined and unable to contribute, he said, “It was tough, but I knew I was hurt and I stayed calm about it so I could come back healthy.”
If there are no next-day difficulties, sorenesses or setbacks, Cueto probably will return to the Reds rotation as early as Sunday in Philadelphia and he doesn’t plan to be Johnny Come Lately.
When Cueto returns to the rotation, the question is: “What now? Who is in and who is out?”
Rookie left hander Tony Cingrani, who stepped in for Cueto and more than filled in, was originally scheduled to pitch Thursday in Miami.
The Reds, though, moved him back a day to pitch Friday’s opener in Philadelphia — Mat Latos will pitch Thursday on his regular four days of rest and Cingrani reported some tightness in his shoulder.
Manager Dusty Baker hinted last week that Cingrani probably will be sent back to Class AAA Louisville to work on a secondary pitch.
Cingrani breezed through last Friday’s start against Milwaukee, no runs, two hits, the first time through the lineup. But in the fourth, he gave up back-to-back home runs, a walk and a single. He was removed after the fourth. In his previous start in Chicago, the same thing happened. He was effective once through the lineup, then struggled.
“You can get by with basically one pitch the first time through a lineup, especially with his 95 miles an hour fastball,” said Baker. “But the second and third time is much tougher. The hitters know the action on your ball. He is going to have to come up with a secondary pitch. He throws his fastball about 95 per cent of the time.
“He is on the way and I’m glad he has had the success he has had so far (2-0, 2.89 ERA in five starts with seven walks and 37 strikeouts in 28 innings. But he also has given up six home runs.
“The silver lining is that Cingrani has put us in a chance to win (filling in for Johnny Cueto),” said Baker. “We’re not here to try out or get a look-see. He has gotten an extended time here. What if he had come up and got shelled and then who would be our next line of defense? Had we lost four out of his five starts, we’d be seven games out — or worse.”