SALT RIVER AT TALKING STICK, Ariz. — Adam Eaton, Arizona’s leadoff batter Monday against the Cincinnati Reds saw something he’d never seen when Johnny Cueto threw him a mysterious-looking pitch.
Eaton jerked his head up after the ball whistled by, looked at Cueto and said, “Nice pitch. Nice cutter, man.”
A cutter? It’s a pitch Cueto has worked on since last mid-season, but hasn’t used much in games. He is about to spring it on National League hitters this year and Eaton received a prelude and gave it five stars.
“Not only is it a good cutter, he throws it hard,” said former Reds pitching star Mario Soto, who witnessed it first hand Monday. “He’s very happy with it. It is working real well and it gives him another pitch in his repertoire.”
As if he needs it.
“I taught it to myself,” said Cueto after he held the Diamondbacks one run and two hits in three innings of 55-pitch work. “I’ll be using it more this year.”
Unfortunately for the Reds, they lost again and lost ugly, 7-2. Four of Arizona’s runs were unearned due to three Cincinnati errors and the Reds had only six hits, two in the ninth. Zack Cozart gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the first with a long, long home run to the top of a grassy knoll behind the left field wall.
“We didn’t play a very good game,” said manager Dusty Baker. “We didn’t play a good defensive game. Most of their runs accounted for on errors and we don’t usually do that.”
AND IF IT looks as if Cueto is trimmer this spring, well, he is. For now. It isn’t going to stay that way (or weigh).
When he won 19 games last year he weighed 214, but he reported to camp at 207 and now is at 206 ¬— and not pleased about it.
“I felt better at 214,” he said. “I feel good at 214. I’m going to get back to 214, eat rice and beans, every day.”
Cueto made some Cincinnati hearts pop into mouths in the first inning when he tried to field a ball near first base and throw off-balance to home plate. He went down in a 206-pound heap, bringing out the medical staff and Dusty Baker. But he stayed in.
“I just slipped,” he said. “I’m OK. I just didn’t want that run to score.” But it scored.
CUETO ALSO unexpectedly had to bat after a heated discussion at home plate before the game between managers Dusty Baker and Kirk Gibson.
If both teams agree, even two National League teams can use the designated hitter in spring training. And Baker brought Shin-Soo Choo to Salt River, planning to let him gets some at-bats at DH. He didn’t want him playing in the outfield while his hamstring remains tight.
But when the Reds arrived at the park Gibson sent word that Gibson wanted his pitcher, Brandon McCarthy to bat, even though it would be only one at-bat.
Some pointed words were tossed back and forth and when Gibson proffered hlis hand, Baker refused to shake it and stalked off.
“We didn’t have a very pleasant encounter at home plate,” said Baker. “That’s ow it goes. It’s over. Hey, man, he wanted his pitcher to hit and I wanted Choo to DH. He sent over word that’s what they wanted to do. It would have been fine with me to do both, but they accepted what the home team wanted to do.”
Said Gibson, “Just locker room stuff, that’s all. We wanted to play a National League game and they wanted to do it their way.” Gibson said the Reds knew before they got here that the DH wouldn’t be used, “But they sent a lineup card with one on it anyway.”
When Cueto batted, he never took the bat off his shoulder and was called out on strikes. “I wasn’t allowed to swing, they told me no,” he said. “Spring training.”Tweet