Manager Dusty Baker hinted Saturday that Johnny Cueto would make the Reds' starting rotation if camp broke today.
"Who's better than him?" Baker asked. Now you're catching on, Dusty. Cueto hit 97 on the radar gun Friday while striking out four during three scoreless innings against Pittsburgh.
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."
So, is this just Dusty running his mouth or is this something to keep an eye on?