Good news, bad news situation: The bad? Johnny Cueto was absolutely clobbered in just his second appearance of the spring. The good? He says that he feels fine. His stat line begs to differ.
After exploding for four runs in the first inning, the Reds watched their lead wither away, and ultimately fell by a final of 9-5. On the only day of the year that can be made into a sentence, the Reds need to quite literally “March Fourth.”
The well-being of Johnny Cueto is imperative coming into the 2014 season. Understandably, the fan base is collectively holding their breath, since the Cincinnati ace has been plagued by arm/shoulder/lat issues since his infamous exit from the 2012 Postseason.
Since surrogate ace Mat Latos has already given the die-hards of Reds Country a scare early on in the year, Cueto’s performance today certainly did not calm any nerves.
Offensive Side of the Diamond:
The bats came alive early and it all began with Chris Heisey, who slammed a double to centerfield that just barely missed clearing the fence for a leadoff home run. As it has been mentioned previously, this upcoming year will be a huge one for Heisey in his efforts to prove his worth to the organization and whether he will be a contributing member for years to come. He has certainly been prone to hot and cold streaks throughout his career, maybe more pronounced than the average player.
Fellow left fielder Ryan Ludwick crushed a ball in the first inning, although, this one landed far beyond the fence out in left field, putting the Reds on the board 2-0 after Ludwick’s first convincing homer in quite some time.
Immediately after, fellow bash brother Todd Frazier cranked his first bomb of the spring, giving the club their first back-to-back shots of the year.
Unfortunately for the Reds, the offense all but packed up for the day at that point. Ryan LaMarre knocked in the final run of the contest in the seventh to cut the lead to 8-5, but that would be the last gasp of air for an offense that came out so blistering and finished so stifling.
Devin Mesoraco got the start behind the plate tonight (and more importantly, caught Johnny Cueto) and went 2-for-3 with a run scored. The only player who will be there come March 31st who did not notch a hit this afternoon was Jay Bruce. Similarly to his pal Joey Votto, there is a good chance the game’s premier right fielder will contribute when it counts, regardless of his very early inefficiencies.
Reds’ Toeing the Rubber:
In so many facets, this may have been the most intriguing day to date for Reds pitchers taking the hill. From an ace being made mortal, to young guns lighting up the radar, there was a little bit of everything for even the most pessimistic fan.
First things first, Johnny Cueto was off. Not in the old school Bronson Arroyo sense, where one out is record amidst eight earned runs and a dozen hits, because Cueto was incredibly effective his first two innings before the wheels fell off.
After the game, speaking through Thomas Vera, Cueto stated how he felt that his front side was flying open far too quickly, and even pointed out that the three-run home run Royals slugger Eric Hosmer hit was a flyball off the bat and it just happened to land out.
There’s no positive way to spin an outing that ends with the final four batters going: home run, triple, triple, double, with the previous two batters both smoking line drives. It serves as a reminder that even as masterful as Cueto can be, he is still human, and susceptible to a rough day at the park.
From there, it was the flame throwers time to shine. Looking to rebound from his less than stellar first outing, Robert Stephenson took to the hill for multiple frames. While the velocity certainly was there, the domination was lacking. On the afternoon, he surrendered five hits to go along with his two earned runs. Those that expected Stephenson to cruise up to the big leagues, are gaining a crash course in the maturation of a young pitcher that needs to learn to develop his repertoire before he can land on the Major League scene.
He was not the only fireballer to take the hill on this sunny Tuesday afternoon, as former two-way sensation from Cal-State Fullerton, Michael Lorenzen got to see some action. In his rudimentary 1-2-3 inning, the 22-year-old hit 98 MPH on the gun, becoming just another Reds prospect to join that list. Do not be fooled by Aroldis Chapman; throwing that hard is not easy.
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On deck for the Reds is the lone night game on the schedule from Arizona tomorrow when they lock up with the best team money can buy, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those of whom that have purchased the MLB.tv package can watch the game at 9:05 PM as the Dodgers telecast will have the game covered.
Homer Bailey will take the ball to start for the Reds, with the bullpen mob expected to make an appearance (the combination of Parra, LeCure and Hoover).