Yesterday, Reds rookie Johnny Cueto was perfect for 5 innings, gave up one solo home run, and promptly returned to being perfect, retiring 21 of the 22 batters he faced in his major league debut.
“The linescore says it: Seven innings, one run, one hit, 10 strikeouts,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “That is some debut right there.”
And no walks, for a pitcher who walked five of the ten batters he faced in his penultimate spring training start. But yesterday, Cueto didn’t once go to a three-ball count. Eight of his K’s came against the first 13 batters. His performance was so dominant, he threw his veteran skipper into a bonafide tizzy.
“I’m giddy inside,” Baker said. “I’m excited to hear the guys on the bench talk. They haven’t seen this in a long time. As a matter of fact, they haven’t ever seen it.”
Cueto’s fastball touched 96. His slider is almost 10 mph slower. And in the first five innings, he only went to his changeup twice. After all, if you’re throwing a no-hitter with two pitches, why go to three?
“Everything was downhill,” Reds closer Francisco Cordero said. “Everything was a strike. He attacked the hitters. He made the pitches he wanted to make. Even the home run pitch wasn’t bad. The guy just put a good swing on it. It was just amazing.”
Baker has garnered a reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with young arms. Which is why it’s even more impressive that Cueto accomplished all of the above while throwing only 92 pitches (68 for strikes).
Yes, it’s only April. But this is why, in our weekend picks post, Cueto was my pick for NL Rookie of the Year. He’s got the stuff, he rocketed from Single A to Triple A last year, and if he played for the Red Sox or the Yankees, the rest of the baseball world would have heard of him long before now. As for those of you hoping to pick him up under the radar for your fantasy teams, Johnny Cueto just looked “under the radar” in the face and told it to go screw itself.
Only problem: no one knows how to pronounce the kid’s name. Last night on SportsCenter, I heard Koo-toe, Koy-toe, Kwettoe, Kway-toe. Let’s figure that out, eh, guys?