The Mystery of the Reds' Ailing Arms

Illya Harrell@illya_1971Analyst IIJuly 7, 2009

CINCINNATI - APRIL 09:  Bronson Arroyo #61 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the game against the New York Mets at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Reds seem to have a problem.  When that problem comes in the form of giving double-digit run totals to the opposition, it is rather disturbing for a Reds' fan.

Edinson Volquez is on the DL with ligament damage. So there's no secret there. The fact that he is not even close to coming back shouldn't be much of a secret either.

Last week he threw for five minutes. The outing was described as "great" by a team official. Five minutes is not even the length of most three up, three down innings. In short, Volquez has a long road before he hops back to the hill.

That is the one given injury, but the more we see Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto, the more they appear damaged as well.

Arroyo has already told the world that he is feeling something akin to carpal tunnel syndrome. Just looking at his last three starts, it's more than obvious that the Reds resident wanna-be rock star is wounded.  

Over his last three starts, he has given up five earned runs in two and six in the other.

He has pitched 14 innings in those three games, while allowing 16 earned runs (10.29 ERA), with 29 hits, and nine walks (2.71 WHIP).

Unfortunately for Reds' country, the Arroyo injury may just be the start of something more serious. More serious like going to the dentist to have a cavity filled and walking out toothless.

On Monday night in Philadelphia, for the first time in his career, staff ace Johnny Cueto, after facing 11 batters, failed to make it out of the first inning. 

He gave up five hits, two long balls, three walks, hit a batter, and two doubles—including one for a couple of RBI to pitcher Cole Hamels, who entered the game with a .100 batting average.   

People who follow the Reds closely will remember that in his previous start vs. Arizona, Cueto was shown massaging his lower back in noticeable pain. He overcame the pain and went on to throw six innings of shutout ball.

However, he had given up five runs in each of his previous three starts before the Arizona game.

This will sound wimpy to those who are used to complete games. But times have changed, and managers need to coddle pitchers, especially young pitchers who possess unlimited potential (see Mark Prior and Kerry Wood—whoops, same manager).  

In Cueto's 10 starts prior to the aforementioned three-game skid, Reds' manager Dusty Baker left him in the game at least seven innings nine times. In the other game he was removed after six and one-third.

Both Prior and Woods have said that they do not place any blame on Baker for their arm trouble. In Prior's case, career ending arm problems.

It does not take a genius to see a pattern.

Cueto's next scheduled start is this weekend in New York. Unless Dusty wants to further his reputation as an impediment to excellent young arms, he would be wise to rest him until after the all-star break.

Concerning Arroyo, it looks like he needs a stint on the DL. The Reds could recall Matt Maloney and hope he's learned to pitch the ball below the opposing batter's waist line.

That or give 31-year-old Justin Lehr another shot. He hasn't pitched in the bigs since 2006. He has since learned a pretty good split finger, which he taught Homer Bailey who showcased it in last Friday's hard-luck loss against the Cards.

Remember a guy named Mike Scott? Roger Craig taught him a pretty nasty splitter at about the same age. Scott went from mediocrity (at best) to a Cy Young Award winner in 1986—he was 31-years-old.