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Rookie Cueto strikes out 10 in debut as Reds edge Diamondbacks

CBSSports.com wire reports

CINCINNATI -- While Johnny Cueto blew away batters with a 96 mph fastball, his Cincinnati Reds teammates compared memories about the last time they'd seen anyone so young look so good the first time out.

The consensus: This was something special.

Cueto allowed nothing more than Justin Upton's solo homer in seven innings Thursday, striking out 10 in an overpowering debut while leading the Reds to a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In modern baseball history -- since 1900, that is -- no Reds pitcher had fanned 10 batters in his big league debut.

Special indeed.

"The guys on the bench were saying they haven't seen anything like this in a long time," manager Dusty Baker said. "I guess it's something they've never seen, and there's a lot they still haven't seen from this young man."

To a man, the Diamondbacks have seen enough.

The 22-year-old right-hander threw his fastball right past batters who had never seen it, finishing them off with a hard slider or a swing-teasing changeup. He struck out eight of his first 13 batters.

It reminded Baker of how Fernando Valenzuela became an overnight sensation with the Dodgers in the 1980s.

"He knows what he wants to do," Baker said. "The way he was throwing the ball today has no age."

The only glaring mistake: Upton led off the sixth with a homer. That was the only hit by a team that batted an NL-low .250 last season.

"He was unbelievable two years ago," said Upton, who faced him once in Class A. "He's got great stuff. He pounds the (strike) zone with it. He's just a great pitcher. Obviously he made the team for a reason. He's major league ready."

Arizona's Alex Romero had a sacrifice fly in the eighth, after reliever David Weathers walked the bases loaded. Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his first save since the Reds gave him a $46 million, four-year deal to fix their biggest shortcoming.

Then, Cordero handed Cueto his first big league keepsake.

"My big thing was to get three people out, get the save and hand the ball to him," Cordero said.

Cueto doesn't speak English comfortably, so former Reds pitcher Mario Soto -- now a scouting assistant and spring training instructor -- provided translation. Most of Cueto's answers were short and to the point, just like his performance.

His feelings when he took the mound for the first time?

"Very confident," Soto said. "Throw seven shutout innings. That's what he had in mind."

Soto, who also is from the Dominican Republic, knew Cueto's performance was going to be big stuff in their homeland.

"I guarantee you, they know," Soto said. "They have a program (on baseball) there at 5 o'clock. If they don't already know, at 5 o'clock everybody's going to know."

No one expected Cueto to be in this position a year ago, when he started at Class A and got on the fast track. He led all Reds minor leaguers in strikeouts last season, and was one of the most impressive pitchers in spring training.

The question was whether he could control his emotions and his best pitch when the pressure was on. In his next-to-last start of spring training, Cueto walked five of the 10 batters he faced.

Pitching in a light, steady rain that turned the 48-degree afternoon raw, Cueto kept his grip. He set the tone by fanning Chris Young on a 96 mph fastball to open the game.

His counterpart had the opposite experience.

Jeff Keppinger homered off left-hander Doug Davis (0-1), who failed to make it through the fourth inning. Just for Davis to be on the mound was an accomplishment in itself.

The 32-year-old Davis was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last week, but lobbied hard to make his two scheduled starts leading up to an operation on April 10. He's expected to miss at least a month while he recovers.

Davis needed 29 pitches to get through the first inning, working at his usual, unhurried pace in the steady rain that affected his grip on the ball. He walked six in 3 2/3 innings.

"I had no rhythm out there whatsoever," Davis said. "It was slick sometimes. I'm not making any excuse because you've got to adjust and overcome that kind of thing, but I just didn't feel like any pitch felt the same."

Brandon Phillips doubled home a run in the first inning, and Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson let a grounder skitter under his glove for a run-scoring error. Keppinger hit a solo homer in the second for a 3-0 lead.


  • Hudson made only five errors last season, when he won his third straight Gold Glove.
  • According to Elias, Cueto was the first to throw five perfect innings in his debut since Seattle's Ken Cloude retired the first 16 batters he faced on Aug. 9, 1997, against the White Sox.
  • The last pitcher to strike out 10 in his big league debut was Daisuke Matsuzaka, who fanned 10 in seven innings for Boston last season.
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Johnny Cueto's 10 strikeouts are the most by a Reds pitcher in his big league debut since 1900.  (AP)
Johnny Cueto's 10 strikeouts are the most by a Reds pitcher in his big league debut since 1900. (AP)

Players of the Game

J. Cueto
IP 7.0
H 1
ER 1
BB 0
K 10

J. Upton
AB 2
R 1
H 1
HR 1

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Arizona Diamondbacks
Chris Young, CF4000042 .200
Chris Burke, 1B4000010 .000
Orlando Hudson, 2B4000000 .182
Eric Byrnes, LF4000030 .083
Stephen Drew, SS3000000 .182
Mark Reynolds, 3B2100110 .100
Justin Upton, RF2111110 .200
Robby Hammock, C2000100 .000
Doug Davis, P1000010 .000
    Yusmeiro Petit, P0000000 .000
   a- Jeff Salazar, PH1000010 .500
    Brandon Medders, P0000000 .000
    Doug Slaten, P0000000 .000
   b- Alex Romero, PH0001000 .000
    Juan Cruz, P0000000 .000
a-struck out for Petit in the 6th
b-hit a sacrifice fly for Slaten in the 8th
HR - Justin Upton (1, Cueto)
SF - Alex Romero (1)
RBI - Justin Upton (1), Alex Romero (1)
Team LOB - 2
DP - Slaten-Drew-Burke
E - Orlando Hudson (1, Misplayed grounder)
Arizona Diamondbacks
Doug Davis (L,0-1) 3.2432641 4.91
Yusmeiro Petit 1.1000000 0.00
Brandon Medders 1100210 0.00
Doug Slaten 1000100 0.00
Juan Cruz 1000020 0.00
IBB - Griffey by Brandon Medders
Pitches-Strikes - Doug Davis 87-43, Yusmeiro Petit 13-9, Brandon Medders 29-13, Doug Slaten 11-4, Juan Cruz 12-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Doug Davis 4-3, Yusmeiro Petit 2-2, Brandon Medders 1-1, Doug Slaten 1-1
Batters Faced - Doug Davis 21, Yusmeiro Petit 4, Brandon Medders 6, Doug Slaten 3, Juan Cruz 3
Cincinnati Reds
Ryan Freel, CF4000101 .000
Jeff Keppinger, SS3121100 .500
Ken Griffey Jr., RF2110200 .111
Brandon Phillips, 2B4111025 .333
Adam Dunn, LF1000300 .125
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B3010101 .222
Scott Hatteberg, 1B4000012 .000
Paul Bako, C3000125 .000
Johnny Cueto, P3000011 .000
    David Weathers, P0000000 .000
    Mike Lincoln, P0000000 .000
   a- Joey Votto, PH1000010 .250
    Francisco Cordero, P0000000 .000
a-struck out for Lincoln in the 8th
2B - Jeff Keppinger (1, Medders), Ken Griffey Jr. (1, Davis), Brandon Phillips (1, Davis)
HR - Jeff Keppinger (1, Davis)
RBI - Jeff Keppinger (1), Brandon Phillips (4)
2-OUT RBI - Jeff Keppinger (1), Brandon Phillips (1)
Team LOB - 10
Cincinnati Reds
Johnny Cueto (W,1-0) 71110101 1.29
David Weathers (H,1) 0.1011300 6.75
Mike Lincoln (H,1) 0.2000010 0.00
Francisco Cordero (S,1) 1000010 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Johnny Cueto 92-68, David Weathers 19-5, Mike Lincoln 6-4, Francisco Cordero 14-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Johnny Cueto 4-7
Batters Faced - Johnny Cueto 22, David Weathers 4, Mike Lincoln 2, Francisco Cordero 3
Game Information
Attendance - 11987
Game Time - 2:40
Temperature - 48
Umpires - Home - James Hoye, First Base - Doug Eddings, Second Base - Dana DeMuth, Third Base - Ted Barrett