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Thread: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

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    Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    The other Cueto thread is getting kind of long so that's why I started a new thread.

    Cueto rising through Reds' ranks
    Right-hander opens eyes after impressive spring outings
    By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

    SARASOTA, Fla. -- Until this spring, few Reds fans had seen Johnny Cueto pitch in person, and even fewer Reds scribes.

    Yet over his past couple of seasons in the Minors, rumblings of Cueto's impressive stuff had spread like snarky gossip on TMZ.com. His name had almost taken on mythical proportions last season, even as Homer Bailey overshadowed most others in the organization.

    With Cueto in his first big league camp as a non-roster invitee, the buzz has only increased. Now that his ability has been witnessed in person, it's backed up the talk.

    "Sometimes people live up to the hype," manager Dusty Baker said Friday morning. "Most of the time, they don't. But he's kind of exceeded the hype so far."

    Cueto made his first spring start in Friday afternoon's 13-8 loss to the Pirates, and succeeded at adding to the hype. The 22-year-old smoothly worked three scoreless innings and allowed one hit with no walks and four strikeouts -- including three in a row.

    Just as important, Cueto used all of his pitches and felt very comfortable facing big league hitters. One scout's radar gun had Cueto's fastball mostly at 95 mph, topping out at 97.

    "I trust my stuff," the Dominican native Cueto said through catcher and interpreter Javier Valentin. "I do nothing specific to prove something to anybody. I just throw the ball the way I'm used to throwing."

    Of Cueto's 35 pitches, 25 were strikes. It was such short work that he threw an additional 15 pitches in the bullpen after his outing.

    The tone for Cueto's start was set from the first batter. Pittsburgh leadoff man Nate McLouth was frozen on a changeup called for strike three.

    "If he has that kind of changeup, welcome to the big leagues," Valentin said. "He's the next Pedro Martinez."

    Valentin wasn't behind the plate when Cueto pitched, but has caught him in batting practice. Valentin, however, has seen what the changeup does to Reds hitters on the practice fields. Cueto's fastball is considered his best pitch. He also throws a slider and two-seam fastball.

    "I'm impressed with his stuff," said Paul Bako, who caught Cueto on Friday and the right-hander's previous relief outing on Sunday. "I'm also impressed with his command and how effortless his delivery seems and how consistent it is. It appears he's never really out of control out there, which is pretty rare for a guy his age with as good of stuff as he has."

    Combined at Class A Sarasota, Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville in 2007, Cueto was 12-9 with a 3.07 ERA. In 161 1/3 innings, he struck out 170 batters compared to 34 walks.

    The Reds have several pitchers competing to fill the back three spots in the rotation this spring. Because he had logged just four Triple-A starts, indications before camp were that Cueto had an outside chance against the likes of Bailey, Matt Belisle, Jeremy Affeldt and Edinson Volquez. The odds appeared even longer once Josh Fogg signed as a free agent late last month.

    Not too long, perhaps.

    "I've seen a number of pitchers come through Double-A and spend very little time at Triple-A," Baker said. "Talking to a lot of scouts, they said Double-A might be a better competitive league than Triple-A. And he throws strikes. If you throw strikes with good stuff and if you can get your off-speed stuff over, you have a chance to win. Every time he gets hit a little bit, he's got another gear."

    Baker's first impression of Cueto in game action came against the Blue Jays on Sunday. The pitcher was hampered by the flu, but worked two perfect innings seemingly effortlessly.

    "He could have been skipped and didn't want to skip," Baker said. "I like that. He comes to play. It also means he wants to try and make this team. You can't make it on the bench or training room. I like the young man. He's quiet. He goes about his business. You can tell he's in real good company here. He's already around [closer Francisco] Cordero and Mario Soto."

    Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, Cueto walks taller with confidence. He knows he'll be in the big leagues -- sooner than later. He firmly believes he has a good chance to go north with the Reds when camp breaks at the end of the month.

    "That's why we're here," Cueto said.

    http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/...=.jsp&c_id=cin

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Here's an article from Trent with more quotes.

    Cueto rotation ready
    Friday 03-07-2008 4:36pm ET

    SARASOTA, Fla. -- Put Johnny Cueto in the Reds' rotation right now. Put him third behind Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo -- not because Cueto could be the Reds' third-best starter, but because Arroyo’s done it long enough to have earned the No. 2 spot.

    I'm the first to say "it's only spring." But this time I'm answering my own statement -- "I don't care. The kid is good."

    The kid is really good.

    It's not just me, listen to what Cueto said when asked if he should start in the big leagues.

    "Yes," Cueto said through interpreter and catcher Javier Valentin as if he'd been asked nothing more if he wanted a bottle of water after pitching three innings and striking out four Pirate batters, while surrendering a single hit. "That's why I'm here. I'm throwing the ball good, if I've got a chance to start the season in the big leagues, I'll be happy."

    On display on the mound is not just Cueto's outstanding fastball and change-up (oh, the change), but also his confidence. Not at any point did Cueto look as if he didn’t belong -- not just on the Ed Smith Stadium mound, but on the mound at Great American Ball Park or Yankee Stadium or the moon.

    Not only did Cueto dominate -- the only hit he surrendered was a liner by first baseman Scott Hatteberg by former National League batting champ Freddy Sanchez -- he did it making the Pirate hitters look like Little Leaguers. Those same Pirate hitters greeted Cueto's replacement, Richie Gardner, with seven runs on five hits in 1/3 of an inning.

    "I feel good, I felt comfortable," Cueto said after Friday's performance. "I trust my stuff, I don't do anything specific to impress anybody. I throw the way I'm used to throwing and challenge the hitters."

    Sunday in Dunedin, Fla., Cueto made his first appearance of the spring, striking out two batters in two innings against the Blue Jays, one of those being All-Star Vernon Wells. Cueto also gave up four hits and a run against Toronto, but he was dealing with the flu. Still, after that game, Reds manager Dusty Baker called Cueto's stuff "electric."

    If Cueto was electric against the Blue Jays, he was nuclear against the Pirates.

    "He throws easy, he throws strikes, he mixes up his pitches well," Baker said following the 13-8 Pirates win. "He threw the ball well, he looks nice and relaxed. He's coming fast. He looked good."

    None of this surprises those who have seen him pitch before. Jay Bruce, ranked as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, isn't surprised at anything Cueto does on the mound.

    "Sometimes those guys have no chance -- no chance at all," Bruce said. "I asked him how he was throwing, he said, 'maybe 98.' I believe him. He's ridiculous. He's going to be good for a long, long time."

    Even though Cueto can touch the upper 90s, his fastball is merely a set-up for a devastating change-up, which will be his out pitch. It's what he got Pirates' leadoff man Nate McLouth looking at to start Friday's game, and the pitch he had several Pirates whiffing at throughout his three innings. Bruce called it "dirty" while future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas lost his balance swinging at one last weekend.

    "If you have that kind of changeup, welcome to the big leagues," Valentin said. "Everyone says the next Pedro Martinez, and hopefully that's what we've got here, the next Pedro Martinez."

    http://1530homer.com/pages/ctrent.html

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Kind of funny. Cueto is one I figured didn't have a shot and he rocks and others you think are going to make it like Bruce or Homer and they just may not. It's exciting. I can't wait to see him pitch. I guess the 1st game on tv is Monday. Probably too soon for him again. Wish more games were on, but this outing was awesome. We lost the game, but the guys who gave up the big runs won't make this team.

    Also, anyone notice Salmon so far this year. He just might be a sleeper. No ER yet.
    And This One Belongs to the REDS!!!

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by Reds1 View Post
    Kind of funny. Cueto is one I figured didn't have a shot and he rocks and others you think are going to make it like Bruce or Homer and they just may not. It's exciting. I can't wait to see him pitch. I guess the 1st game on tv is Monday. Probably too soon for him again. Wish more games were on, but this outing was awesome. We lost the game, but the guys who gave up the big runs won't make this team.

    Also, anyone notice Salmon so far this year. He just might be a sleeper. No ER yet.
    Homer and Volquez are pitching Monday night...I'm pretty excited for that.

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine View Post
    Homer and Volquez are pitching Monday night...I'm pretty excited for that.
    Very cool. I still see Volquez in the pen, but he looked like he did ok last outing. Some command issues. Love all these young pitchers with some heat though. thanks
    And This One Belongs to the REDS!!!

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine View Post
    Homer and Volquez are pitching Monday night...I'm pretty excited for that.
    I am curious to if that holds true, or if tonights weather messes that schedule up a little bit or not.

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    This comes from a Canadien blogger with no Reds ties...

    * I have seen the future and it looks a lot like Pedro Martinez. The single most impressive thing I've seen this spring was Cincinnati Reds prospect Johnny Cueto pitching against the Toronto Blue Jays.

    My god, this guy looks like Pedro looked when he first came to the Montreal Expos - a little thicker through the hips, maybe, but he's got the jaunty leg and arm swing that Pedro has when he finishes off a pitch and feels as if he's healthy. Bill Lee once told friend Mitch Melnick that Pedro must be one helluva dancer because of the waye he uses his hips to generate power and the statement's kind of stuck with me. Oh, sure: you're already hearing some B.S. about whether or not Cueto's strong enough. Rubbish. Manager Dusty Baker, whose handling of young pitchers has never been a strong suit, is already saying he might let Cueto make the team as a reliever and build him up in the majors. Based on what I saw, I'd have no problem letting the guy run with it. There is nothing in spring training - nothing - that beats seeing a good young arm, either in a game or in the bullpen. Still takes your breath away.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl...ory/WBbaseball

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    At 22, Cueto has Reds talking
    Young pitcher throws 98 mph with a superb changeup, and Baker likes his work ethic.

    By Hal McCoy

    Staff Writer

    Saturday, March 08, 2008

    SARASOTA, Fla. — Johnny Cueto was a shy, quiet kid of 19 from San Pedro de Macoris, the dirt-road Dominican town that produces major-league baseball players like Florida produces oranges.

    It was three years ago, and the Reds had just hired Mario Soto to work in their Dominican camp when Cueto walked in. Soto had a one-word response the first time he saw Cueto throw: "Wow." Then two more words, "Wow, wow."

    When he pitched for the Reds in the 1980s, Soto succeeded with two pitches — a better-than-average fastball and the world's best changeup, a pitch he still teaches. And Cueto was an eager, willing pupil.

    Now Soto proudly talks about the changeup in Cueto's arsenal.

    "That pitch is really working for him," said Soto. "We've worked and worked on it. It's a pitch you have to keep working on. And he likes the pitch. He enjoys throwing it."

    The Pittsburgh Pirates didn't enjoy it Friday, March 7. Cueto buzzed through their everyday lineup for three innings, giving up no runs and one hit while striking out four — 37 pitches, 26 strikes. His fastball hit 98 miles per hour, but the money pitch is the changeup.

    Cueto turned over a 4-0 lead to the bullpen, but the Reds lost, 13-8.

    Said catcher Javier Valentin of Cueto, "The changeup is his best pitch. With that changeup, welcome to the big leagues. People say he is the next Pedro Martinez."

    And some people say Cueto will be in the middle of the Reds rotation this year.

    "That kid has really, really good stuff," said Ken Griffey Jr. after watching from his right field spot. "He is going to make it real tough on some guys who think they're going to be in the rotation. No. 34 (Homer Bailey) better step it up a notch."

    The Mario Soto Deluxe Changeup isn't the only thing Soto likes about Cueto.

    "Man, he has the arm and he has the pitches. It is just a matter of time," said Soto. "Everybody who watches him pitch likes him. The more you watch him, the more you like him.

    "He is so comfortable pitching, especially for a kid. For the little time he has been pitching, he looks very calm on the mound. He has great mound presence. Nothing bothers him. He is not afraid to pitch inside, and that's a real good thing."

    Manager Dusty Baker is as effusive over Cueto as Soto is.

    "Some people live up to their hype, but most of the time they don't," said Baker. "Cueto has exceeded the hype so far. I've seen his demeanor, his actions, his desire inside.

    "The last time he pitched, he was sick and we wanted to skip him. He didn't want to skip, and I like that. He comes to play, and it means he wants to try to make this team. You can't make it on the bench, and you can't make it in the training room.

    "I like the young man because he is quiet and goes about his business," added Baker. "He is in good company because he is always around (closer) Francisco Cordero and Mario Soto. He couldn't choose two better to be around as far as working, attitude and the experience Mario has. He is never fooling around with kid's play."

    http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/s/...30808reds.html

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Can you imagine Mario Soto on this team? If Cueto is 80% of Soto in his prime, he is the Reds ACE right now.

    I used to love to listen to Vin Scully announce games in which Soto pitched against his Dodgers. Scully just drooled with appreciation of the embarrassment Soto would wrought on them.
    "Is there a problem officers?"

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Did his changeup get a lot better or is this just the usual prospect hyperbole? Last year people summed it up as merely a good third pitch. This article makes him sound like Johan Santana.

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
    Did his changeup get a lot better or is this just the usual prospect hyperbole? Last year people summed it up as merely a good third pitch. This article makes him sound like Johan Santana.
    Thats how I feel about it all right now. I wonder how much of it is 'shiny and new' syndrome. Obviously Cueto has good stuff, no one is going to question that, but from the reports we are hearing it sounds as if all of a sudden he throws harder and his change up is much improved from reports from the previous two years. Not saying it hasn't happened, but just curious as to if it did, or just a case of a bunch of people that have never seen him before seeing him for the first time.

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Not saying it hasn't happened, but just curious as to if it did, or just a case of a bunch of people that have never seen him before seeing him for the first time.
    I guess you can't rule out the improvement of his changeup. Latching onto Mario Soto is probably helpful. I'd like to see him stretched out a bit before I grant him another 2-3MPH on his fastball though. When you pitch three incredibly quick and boring innings, you can go at it pretty hard. I'd love to see him sitting at 94 in the 7th inning, but I'll take a wait and see on that.

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
    I guess you can't rule out the improvement of his changeup. Latching onto Mario Soto is probably helpful. I'd like to see him stretched out a bit before I grant him another 2-3MPH on his fastball though. When you pitch three incredibly quick and boring innings, you can go at it pretty hard. I'd love to see him sitting at 94 in the 7th inning, but I'll take a wait and see on that.
    Good point. Besides, Johnny throwing all his guns lead to a very good performance and puts pressure on Bailey and Volquez.

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    This is so exciting to see so many young, talented pitchers for this team. I just hope they pan out!!!

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    Re: Cueto rising through Reds' ranks

    Quote Originally Posted by Superdude View Post
    I guess you can't rule out the improvement of his changeup. Latching onto Mario Soto is probably helpful. I'd like to see him stretched out a bit before I grant him another 2-3MPH on his fastball though. When you pitch three incredibly quick and boring innings, you can go at it pretty hard. I'd love to see him sitting at 94 in the 7th inning, but I'll take a wait and see on that.
    Of course at the same time he has been latched on with Soto for the last 3 years. Its not like his changeup went from something he learned to getting help with Soto in the offseason.

    I am with you on your assessment of the velocity. Cueto threw 37 pitches, with incredible efficiency of course, but 37 pitches is something where one can ratchet it up a little more than usual.


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