Cincinnati Reds Should Be Worried About Johnny Cueto's Injury

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Manager Duster Baker #12 of the Cincinnati Reds talks to Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds on the mound in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants during Game One of the National League Division Series at AT&T Park on October 6, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Early Tuesday, Johnny Cueto was diagnosed with a mild oblique strain. This isn't good news for Reds fans who hoped to see him back as soon as Game 4 of the NLDS (if needed).

If the injury is as severe as reported, then Cueto will not be back for Game 4, and should the Reds advance, he may not be back for a while.

Reds beat writer John Fay tweeted earlier that the injury was in fact an oblique strain and that a trip to the disabled list could be in Cueto's near future.

Should Cueto be sent to the DL, he would not be eligible for the NLCS and the Reds would need to replace him in the rotation. The most likely candidate to replace Cueto is Mike Leake, who has struggled mightily in his third big-league season.

In 30 starts, Leake has pitched 179 innings with an 8-9 record, 4.58 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 116 strikeouts compared to 41 walks.

Peripheral stats for Leake include a 2.8 K/BB ratio, 5.8 K/9 and 10.1 H/9. Leake allowed batters to hit .287/.326/.479 with 26 home runs, 46 doubles and five triples.

If that isn't enough bad news for the Reds, it was reported Tuesday that Mat Latos is battling the flu.

Originally, Fay tweeted that Latos had said he'd be ready for Game 4 of the NLDS, if the team needed him. But if Latos is truly battling the flu, it's highly unlikely that he would pitch in Game 4.

That means that since the Reds lost Tuesday night, they may have to turn to Leake as soon as Wednesday evening. If the Reds had been able to win Game 3, they would've have the added advantage of extra time to see whether or not Cueto will be available for the next round of the playoffs.

Tuesday night's game carries major implications for the remainder of the Reds' postseason, and without a healthy Cueto, Cincinnati's postseason run could be in serious jeopardy.