View Full Version : Cueto's rough day a learning experience

Homer's Ghost
03-23-2008, 09:31 PM

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Breaking news: Johnny Cueto is human.
Cueto had pitched so brilliantly for the Reds this spring, it was easy to become spoiled and expect dazzling performances every outing. Yet, he too is capable of having a bad day.

Sunday's start vs. the Rays in a 10-9 loss certainly qualified, as Cueto couldn't get out of the first inning.

The 21-year-old right-hander's line: two-thirds of an inning with five earned runs, three hits and five walks allowed. Cueto threw 41 pitches, only 18 of which went for strikes.

"I didn't have the feel of the fastball. I wasn't throwing it for strikes," Cueto said in Spanish through closer Francisco Cordero, who interpreted.

Cueto's short day dragged for 20 minutes and it didn't take long for him to find trouble. Akinori Iwamura hit a leadoff double, Carl Crawford walked and then Carlos Pena hit a three-run home run. After two quick groundouts, Dioneer Navarro walked.

"He was just flying open and his ball was running off the plate," manager Dusty Baker said. "He just couldn't make the correction. [Catcher] Javy [Valentin] tried to help him out there. When you're young, these things happen sometimes."

Pitching coach Dick Pole visited the mound in an effort to calm things down but it didn't help. Three of the next four batters walked, including Jason Bartlett and Rays pitcher Matt Garza, both on four pitches. In between Joel Guzman smacked a two-run double that made it 5-0, Tampa Bay.

Baker removed Cueto after Iwamura walked in his second plate appearance of the inning. Cueto's spring ERA soared to 5.27 (eight earned runs over 13 2/3 innings).

"I'm sure that probably won't happen to him again the rest of his career," Baker said. "It was a bad outing and he felt terrible about it. Everybody was giving him some love in the dugout, the guys on the team. Everybody -- [Ken] Griffey, [Adam] Dunn, Mario Soto. I was talking to him. Dick was talking to him."

Cordero, a fellow Dominican, also spoke with the rookie in the clubhouse, delivering a positive message.

"Everybody goes through that," Cordero said, speaking for himself. "It's going to happen to everybody. Not one person is perfect. You can have 10 wins in a row and then one day you come in confident and think you're going to do good. it happens that you don't throw strikes or when you throw strikes, they hit it because they're ready for it."

Cueto has been a Grapefruit League sensation and scouts, opponents and media around Florida have been buzzing about him. The prospect, a non-roster invite, pitched himself into the rotation with a 2.08 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 13 innings in four games. Coming into Sunday's game, he had only four walks, a total he more than doubled on Sunday.

The outing shouldn't hurt Cueto's chances of making the team, however. Although Baker has set nothing in stone, Cueto will likely open the regular season as the Reds' third starter.

"He'll be fine," Baker said. "You learn more from those outings than the good outings. I told him to learn from this. I'm sure he will."

Doesn't sound like Dusty is too concerned about it. Better that it happen now then in the regular season.

Homer's Ghost
03-24-2008, 01:18 PM

SARASOTA, Fla. - Francisco Cordero served as the interpreter for Johnny Cueto's post-game interview.

After he was done translating, Cordero continued the conversation with Cueto. Cueto was in need of the some mentoring and words of encouragement after Sunday's five-run, two-thirds of an inning disaster in the Reds' 10-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium.

"We talked," Cordero said. "Everyone knows nobody is perfect. There are going to be those days when you can't find your pitches. You try your changeup, your fastball, your slider. It's just one of those days. You can't find your rhythm."

Cueto, a 22-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, has been the sensation of camp. He had given up three runs in 13 innings before Sunday. He got the same message from a lot of other players.

"He felt terrible," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Everybody was giving him some love in the dugout. Everybody - Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn. I saw them all over there."

Cueto's control had been his strong suit. He had walked four in 13 innings before Sunday.

Sunday, he struggled from the start. He gave up a double to Akinori Iwamura to start the game.

He walked Carl Crawford on five pitches. Carlos Pena hit a 1-0 pitch out to left-center.

Cueto then got a pair of groundouts.

But Dioner Navarro walked.

Pitching coach Dick Pole visited the mound at that point.

"He told me to take more time," Cueto said. "He said I was wide open. I didn't have my same mechanics as other times I was pitching."

But Cueto walked Jason Bartlett on four pitches.

Joel Guzman followed with a two-run double. Cueto then walked pitcher Matt Garza on four pitches - none of which was close. When Iwamura walked, Baker came out and got Cueto.

"He was flying open," Baker said. "He couldn't make the correction. (Catcher Javier Valentin) kept trying to help him out there. When you're a young pitcher, things are going to happen sometimes."

Cueto threw 41 pitches, only 18 of which were strikes.

"Everybody goes through it," Cordero said. "It's going to happen. You can have 10 good days in a row and one day you can't throw strikes. When you do throw strikes, they hit it."

"I'm sure he understands. This was one outing."

Cueto said he was trying to over-throw.

"No, it was just one of those days," Cueto said.

He needs to be able to locate his fastball in order for his change-up and slider to work.

"I didn't feel my fastball," Cueto said. "I couldn't throw it for a strike."

Cueto is still slotted for the third spot in the rotation.

"This will show what kind of determination he has," Baker said. "I'm sure he has a lot of it. . . he'll be fine. You learn more from those outings than the good outings.

"I told him learn from this."

03-24-2008, 01:35 PM
Can he not speak/understand english? That seems like it'd be a huge issue...?

Big Klu
03-24-2008, 01:42 PM
Can he not speak/understand english? That seems like it'd be a huge issue...?

On the radio yesterday, Marty said that Cueto speaks almost no English. He understands it somewhat better, but his speaking skills are very limited. Sounds like Javier Valentin might be assigned to be his personal catcher.

I'm not concerned about yesterday's performance. Everybody has a bad day now and then. However, if he gets lit up in his next start, I will be mildly concerned, and if he gets torched a third time in a row, then I will be worried.