A series of lat strains have limited Reds ace Johnny Cueto to just nine starts this season, including none since June 28. He moved closer to a return on Wednesday though, throwing 60 pitches to live hitters according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“He was throwing pretty good,” said manager Dusty Baker to Fay. "It's not surprising to me. Like I said, he's so mechanically sound. He tired a little bit at the end, which is to be expected. It's a matter of endurance. The velocity was pretty good. That's the reason we had the radar gun out there. Where he dropped was in location some."
The 27-year-old Cueto said he feels "good" and "ready," but added he doesn't know "what they're going to do" as far as his schedule is concerned. Baker said that although the team is "cautiously optimistic," they want to see how their opening day starter feels on Thursday before finalizing any plans.
Cueto said he is open to helping the team any way he can, even if it means pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his big league career. “I'll do whatever they want," he said while noting he has experience pitch in relief thanks to winter ball.
The Reds lost Tony Cingrani to back spasms on Tuesday night and it's unclear how long he will be sidelined. Cueto could theoretically step back into the rotation if he has to miss a start or two. Setup man Jonathan Broxton is out for the year and Cueto could step in there as well.
In between injuries, Cueto went 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 48 2/3 innings. Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake form a more than solid front four of the rotation for Baker.