Cueto getting plenty of advice for debut
Listen to this article or download audio file.Click-2-Listen
By Hal McCoy
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
CINCINNATI — At this time last season, 22-year-old Johnny Cueto was basking in the sun in Florida, pitching for the Class A Sarasota Reds. Fast forward one year, and here he is, wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform and making his major-league debut.
Manager Dusty Baker was asked if he would impart words of wisdom in Cueto's ears before he trudges to the mound to face the Arizona Diamondbacks today, April 3.
"He has enough people talking to him," Baker said. "We have Dickie here (pitching coach Dick Pole), we have Mario here (former Reds pitching great Mario Soto), we have (closer) Francisco Cordero here. We have a lot of people talking to him.
"I just want him to be natural, pretend it's the same game — which it is, no matter where you are," Baker added. "I don't think he'll be any different if we get him through the early innings. Just get him throwing strikes early, and it will be no problem.
Soto, a roving instructor, wouldn't normally be with the Reds, as he is for this homestand, "Before I go open our academy in the Dominican."
Soto said when he made his debut in 1977, "I was nervous, gave up a double to the first hitter, but I was always nervous. I was nervous before my last start. I've talked to Cueto all spring about how it's all baseball, just in a different place. All he needs is to get that first one out of the way."
Gonzalez takes BP
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez took live on-the-field batting practice for the first time before Wednesday's game, wearing shorts and a cumbersome brace on the left knee that put him on the disabled list.
"I can hit and take ground balls with no pain, but the problem is when I pound on it when I run," he said. "It hurts a little, but not as much as two and three weeks ago. But I don't want to play with this brace on."
Baker is pleased with Gonzalez's progress.
"He is looking pretty good, but still apprehensive to make certain moves because that brace is not comfortable to him," said Baker. "The toughest part is to get over the psychological stigma that you might hurt it again. There are still a lot of things he has to do — sliding and stopping and starting and turning corners is where it gets tough."
The Votto plan
Joey Votto was at first base Wednesday, but Scott Hatteberg returns this afternoon.
"I don't want Votto on the bench too long," said Baker, noting that Hatteberg will face Doug Davis today. "Hattie is usually better against lefties than Joey has been. Joey will be, eventually. I'd like to play Joey a lot more, and if he starts swinging better, it makes it easier."
Votto hit .206 this spring to Hatteberg's .386, but Hatteberg was 0-for-4.
Quote of the day
Adam Dunn's haircut was a real ear-lowering affair, shorn so much he looks like the old movie character Billy Jack.
When Scott Hatteberg saw it, he said, "You have heard chunks hitting the floor."