Reds up in arms
Cincinnati has plenty of pitching in the pipeline
Sunday, April 20, 2008 3:28 AM
By Scott Priestle
CINCINNATI -- Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez are beyond the stage of raising eyebrows. Their strong performances in spring training guaranteed them spots in the Reds' rotation, and Cueto's dynamic debut guaranteed him an audience for each upcoming outing.
After only three weeks in Cincinnati uniforms, the young right-handers already are raising expectations for themselves and the franchise.
It has been years since the Reds have had the type of potential Cueto and Volquez present, and the well of pitching talent runs even deeper than those two.
"That's the makings of having a lot of fun," veteran outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said.
Cueto entertained a crowd of 26,410 for seven innings yesterday in a game the Reds eventually lost 5-3 in 10 innings to the Milwaukee Brewers. He was in the clubhouse when the game was decided, but he left his mark again with five strikeouts and only five hits allowed.
If the Reds' ongoing offensive slump is the biggest reason for their 7-11 record, the performance of their young pitchers is the biggest reason to believe things will soon get better. Maybe much better.
Cueto, 22, leads the major leagues in strikeouts. Volquez, 24, is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA. Matt Belisle, 27, went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment and will rejoin the rotation Monday, bumping Josh Fogg to the bullpen. Homer Bailey, 21, has been impressive in triple-A, and Daryl Thompson, 22, has been even better in double-A.
"Our future is bright on the pitching front," manager Dusty Baker said.
After two failed stints with the Texas Rangers in 2005 and '06, Volquez found his stride in double-A last season and carried it through six solid big-league starts and into this season. Bailey now appears to be making the same adjustments.
The former first-round pick impressed Reds officials in spring training with his willingness to address his weaknesses, primarily throwing his fastball with greater precision. Though it did not translate into success in exhibition games, it has in the International League. Entering last night's game, Bailey was 2-1 with a 1.43 ERA for Louisville, with three walks in 19 innings.
Reds catcher David Ross, who is with the Bats on a rehabilitation assignment, caught Bailey's previous start and was impressed beyond the statistics.
"He's really turned the corner as far as learning how to pitch and throwing pitches with conviction," Ross told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "He's not just a one-pitch pitcher."
Thompson is 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA for double-A Chattanooga, and reliever Josh Roenicke is 2-0 with two saves. Jordan Smith and Travis Wood have combined for a 1.67 ERA in six starts for high-A Sarasota.
Even the minor-league veterans are pitching well. Journeyman Justin Lehr is the reigning International League pitcher of the week, and Columbus native Tom Shearn won two of his first three starts for Louisville.
"I pay attention to all of it," Baker said. "We want them to pitch well where they are and continue to pitch well. We want them at a high confidence level."