Bailey, Cueto impress their bosses with starts

Johnny Cueto was back in action for the Reds on Friday pitching in a minor league game.

John Locher/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — In the middle of four baseball fields on the backside of the Reds’ development complex in Arizona is a watchtower. It’s perfect vantage point to keep an eye on all that’s going on below. There was plenty to watch over Friday afternoon.

Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey were making starts on adjacent fields from each other, away from the usual glare of a major-league game. Reds’ brass, including manager Bryan Price, stood in the tower.

They liked what they saw.

Cueto, who was away from the team for more than a week while his mother underwent open heart surgery, and Bailey, who is coming off of surgery last September to repair a flexor tendon in his right forearm, impressed their bosses with their respective outings against minor league teams from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cueto showed he is on track to make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start on April 6 against Pittsburgh, while Bailey is building toward joining the rotation in the middle of April.

"They looked good," said Price sitting in his office a little while later.

Cueto threw 60 pitches over five innings, upping his workload from his last time out when he went four innings against the Chicago Cubs on March 15. Friday he allowed five hits and two runs (one earned) with four strikeouts against Double-A competition.

Bailey threw 41 pitches, 25 of them for strikes, in three innings against the Dodgers’ Triple-A club. After needing 20 pitches to get through the first inning, Bailey was much more in command of his delivery over the next two innings. All together he allowed one run on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

"We were able to get our three innings in under 45 pitches, bounce back between innings fairly well, things were on the right track," said Bailey, who threw 29 pitches in two innings in an outing last Sunday. "The biggest thing, even though coming back from an elbow surgery, I’m more in the mindset of getting ready for a season. My elbow’s felt really good the last couple of times out,€” not that I’ve dismissed it, but my main focus is getting ready for the season now.

"Everything seems to be on track. It’s still early, but so far things are pointing positively."

Price was impressed with the adjustments Bailey made after a less-than-smooth first inning.

The manager wasn’t really sure what to expect out of Cueto after not facing live batting in nearly two weeks, but Cueto looked like he had never been away.

"I think it simply speaks to his commitment to be ready to have another great year," said Price. "It’s a challenging time for his family with some health reasons going on but he was able to maintain and compartmentalize his workouts and find time to get out there and condition, do his shoulder exercises on his own… I think when you work as hard as he did in the offseason to be ready for Opening Day I didn’t anticipate him taking time off while he went home. I thought he looked very good."

Cueto surprised himself a little.

"I got to be honest with you, I thought I was going to be a little wild and stuff, but no," said Cueto through teammate/translator Brayan Pena. "Everything felt pretty good. I was trying to throw the ball down and I was effective. I was very pleased with my start."

Cueto’s next start will be against Arizona on April 1 in a Cactus League game. It will be his final start before Opening Day.

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