Johnny Cueto Says He's Fine, Cincinnati Reds Plan to Play Injury by Ear

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIIOctober 8, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 30, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

All of southwestern Ohio drew in a collective gasp of fear when their Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78) was forced to leave Game 1 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants after only eight pitches due to back spasms.

After striking out Angel Pagan, Cueto threw one pitch to Marco Scutaro before being removed from the game.

While Cincinnati had a remarkable performance by Mat Latos (on three days' rest) that saved arms in the bullpen, the status of the Reds' star pitcher has remained uncertain. Cueto's diagnosis is much better than originally thought—the Reds' training staff thought Cueto had pulled an oblique muscle.

Bronson Arroyo (12-10, 3.74) shut the Giants down in Game 2 as Cincinnati jumped out to a 2-0 series lead. Cueto was scheduled to start Game 3 on short rest, but Reds manager Dusty Baker has already named Homer Bailey (13-10, 3.68)—who has allowed four hits over his last thirteen innings—the starter for Game 3. Bailey pitched the first Reds no-hitter since 1988 in his second-to-last start of the season. Bailey was slated to start Game 4, if necessary.

Baker is waiting to name a Game 4 starter, if a Game 4 is even needed. Cincinnati has outscored the Giants 14-2 in the first two games of the series. If Cueto isn't available, it will likely be Latos.

The Reds are hoping to avoid having to replace Cueto on the NLDS roster. By rule, if he is removed from the roster, he will not be eligible for the NL Championship Series if the Reds advance to face either Washington or division-rival and defending champion St. Louis in the NLCS.

Johnny Cueto feels better and says he should be available to start Game 4 or Game 5. But with Cincinnati trying to win their first World Series since 1990, it isn't worth risking Cueto this early in the postseason.

The Reds will try to end the Giants' season Tuesday night at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. San Francisco will send Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37) to the mound as it looks to extend the series.