What could have been a disaster for the Cincinnati Reds actually might have worked out in their favor, as starter Johnny Cueto was forced out of Game 1 of the National League Division Series against San Francisco after just eight pitches.
Cueto's injury is being reported as a back injury, and he is listed as day-to-day, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
UPDATE: Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 11:50 a.m. ET by Adam Wells
After the news of Mike Leake starting Game 4 came out, speculation started that he would just be taking Cueto's spot on the roster. It turns out that is the case.
According to Reds Insider Mark Sheldon, Leake was added to Cincinnati's NLDS roster in place of Cueto, who will have to wait until the World Series, if the Reds get that far and he is healthy, to pitch again.
The Reds revealed Wednesday morning that they’ve received approval from MLB to replace Johnny Cueto on the NLDS roster with Mike Leake.
“We finally just got approval from MLB,” general manager Walt Jocketty said.
If the Reds advance, Cueto will not be eligible to pitch in the NLCS.
In the same report, Jocketty also says that the team's medical staff felt that Cueto "might be able to pitch one game." Rather than take the chance, the team made the decision to go with Leake in Game 4 and, presumably, Mat Latos in Game 5, if necessary.
---END OF UPDATE---
UPDATE: Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 10:00 a.m. ET by Adam Wells
With Johnny Cueto unavailable for Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Dusty Baker had a choice to make between Mat Latos, who pitched four innings of relief in Game 1, or Mike Leake, who will have to be added to the roster.
According to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, the Reds have opted to go with Leake on Wednesday.
#Reds announce that Mike Leake will start today.— Bill Rabinowitz (@brdispatch) October 10, 2012
While Latos is certainly the better pitcher, I can understand the move. The Reds have two games to clinch, so why not use Leake for the first one? The Giants' offense has been so bad in this series that it doesn't seem to matter who is on the mound.
Plus, if Leake is able to pitch well enough and the Reds are able to win, Latos would be available to go in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday.
---END OF UPDATE---
UPDATE: Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 3:20 p.m. ET by Tim Daniels
John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer provides an update on Cueto's status and it's not what Reds fans were hoping to hear about a key piece of the pitching staff.
Cueto has a mild oblique strain. Not good news. #reds— John Fay (@johnfayman) October 9, 2012
No timetable for Cueto's return has been mentioned, but oblique injuries have become a lot more common in recent seasons and they tend to linger. It will be interesting to see how the Reds handle the situation. If they take him off the NLDS roster, he can't pitch in the NLCS.
---End of update---
UPDATE: Monday, October 8, 12:50 p.m. ET by Donald Wood
After leaving the Cincinnati Reds NLDS opener Saturday night with back spasms, ace Johnny Cueto was not listed as the starter for Game 3. The team has decided to ride with Homer Bailey and reevaluate Cueto day-to-day.
Reds’ insider for the Cincinnati Enquirer, Tom Groeschen, is reporting about the Game 3 starter and how Cueto’s future remains unclear:
The Reds now list Homer Bailey as the Game Three starter. The Reds also on Sunday sent both Cueto and Bailey home to Cincinnati, with Cueto to get some treatment and Bailey to be more rested for his start.
While there is no doubt that Cincinnati would be better off with Cueto in the rotation, the Reds must play it safe and consider skipping the star’s next start if the team has the decisive series lead.
If the team can get away with holding Cueto off until the next round, that would be the smartest course of action.
---End of Update---
After Cueto was forced out of the game, Sam LeCure came in to get the team into the third inning, giving up just one hit, two walks and no runs in 1.2 innings.
Scheduled Game 3 starter Mat Latos came into the game after that, and with the exception of a Buster Posey home run in the sixth inning, he held the Giants in check for four innings before Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman closed out the final three innings to preserve a 5-2 win.
The good news in all this is, according to Adam McCalvy of the Reds' official website, Cueto is hoping to pitch in Game 3 on Tuesday in Cincinnati:
"We'll see how I feel [Sunday], but I hope to pitch in the third game," Cueto said. "I already feel better."
Manager Dusty Baker and Price were in no rush to reveal their pitching plans for the rest of the series. Veteran Bronson Arroyo is scheduled to start Sunday night, by which time the Reds hope to have a better feel for Cueto's status.
McCalvy also states that if Cueto is unable to pitch in Game 3, the Reds could end up moving Game 4 starter Homer Bailey up a day.
Cueto is the lynchpin of a Cincinnati rotation that only used six starting pitchers this season. All five of the Reds' top starters made at least 30 starts, and four of them had over 200 innings. Cueto went 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA, 170 strikeouts, 49 walks and a 1.17 WHIP in 217 innings pitched.