Johnny Cueto: What Does Ace's Injury Mean for the Cincinnati Reds Rotation?

Tyler DumaFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2013

The Cincinnati Reds lost star pitcher Johnny Cueto to a lat injury that he suffered in his start on Saturday, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (h/t Matt Snyder of Rosenthal also reports that the 27-year-old ace will move to the 15-day DL, where he will stay for an amount of time that has yet to be determined:

With Cueto heading to the DL, a few pressing questions have arisen in regard to who will take his place, how long he will be out and how it affects the team's starting rotation.

The first big issue Cueto's injury creates is a pressing need for a replacement in the starting rotation.

The Reds have a few options here. For instance, they could elect to promote a pitcher from within the organization, start Sam LeCure for a few games or trade for a pitcher. The avenue the Reds choose in filling the vacancy depends largely on whether Cueto will be out longer than his initial stint on the 15-day DL.

If the team's physicians determine that Cueto will only miss 15 days, then the Reds may elect to start LeCure in Cueto's place. LeCure has the ability to pitch extended innings and, in 10 career starts, owns a 4.83 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP in 54 innings pitched.

The more popular choice, at least as far as fans are concerned, would be to promote Tony Cingrani from Triple-A Louisville. The left-handed prospect has shot up everyone's top prospect list with a solid start to his 2013 campaign. In 14.1 innings pitched, Cingrani has yet to allow an earned run, and he owns a 0.35 WHIP to go along with ratios of 16.3 K/9, 1.26 BB/9, 13.0 K/BB and 1.9 H/9.

As it stands, Cingrani appears to be the best option. If the aforementioned numbers weren't enough of an indication, the fact that he was pulled after just two innings on Sunday (h/t C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer) should solidify the idea that he will be promoted.

As we wait for word on the Reds rotation, consider another way this move could impact the rotation: If Cueto is in fact out for an extended period of time and Cingrani fills his spot in the rotation, then Mat Latos will need to operate as the ace of the starting rotation.

Latos has continued his success following an impressive 2012 season. The 25-year-old righty has made three starts this season and has pitched 19.1 innings while allowing a 3.26 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He has also posted ratios of 8.8 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 6.33 K/BB and 9.3 H/9.

In the eyes of a particular group of fans, there is a silver lining in all of this rotation shuffling.

If Cingrani moves up and performs well, he may cause the Reds to bump Mike Leake from the starting rotation. After a disappointing 2012 season, Leake has pitched poorly in 2013 as well.

In his first two starts, Leake has regressed in every statistical measure. Leake owns an 0-0 record with a 6.75 ERA, a 1.83 WHIP and ratios of 4.5 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.00 K/BB and 12.0 H/9. Sure, it's only two starts, but he hasn't looked sharp on the mound, and the numbers back that up.

A replacement for Cueto has yet to be determined. In fact, we don't even know how long he'll be out for. However, the time the young ace spends on the DL could have a significant effect on the Reds starting rotation.


All stats courtesy of