I was in class when Thursday's game started, so I only caught a couple innings. I did, however, go back and watch the whole seven inning performance on mlb.tv last night. My response was similar to Diamondbacks play-by-play man Daron Sutton's, "double u oh double u."
Here's a 3-minute YouTube clip from the second inning. You can catch a glimpse of Cueto's form, but the clip doesn't really do justice to the absolute gushing that was coming out of the mouth of D-Backs color man Mark Grace every inning. It took all of three at bats in Johnny Cueto's first career game for Grace to announce, "he's my choice for Cy Young." Two innings later he was even more enthusiastic, "Oh yeah, he's definitely going to win the Cy Young." As a seasoned baseball man who has seen it all, Grace was simply employing hyperbole as an effective comedic technique to help get his point across. I think.
Here's what Cueto brought to the mound with him Thursday:
Fastball: Sits at 94-96 mph on the stadium gun. Cueto's explodes into the mitt with late life, and he kept it almost exclusively at knee level on the black.
Change-up: Devastating. Was in the 84-86 mph range with plenty of movement.
Slider: 86-90 mph. A 90 mph slider! Cueto was consistently getting on top of the slider and producing a very tight break, but I think he will struggle to command this pitch as well as he did against the D-Backs. If he can truly master the slider as his third pitch, the K's will keep coming by the bushel.
According to Elias, Cueto was not only the first Reds pitcher to debut with 10 strikeouts, he was also the first pitcher in modern MLB history to debut with 10 strikeouts and no walks. He was only the third pitcher in history to record at least 10 strikeouts and allow only one hit in his debut. Steve Woodard (1997) and Juan Marichal (1960) are the others. That first game dominance has Baseball Musings interested:
Should we temper our expectations somewhat? After all, there's nowhere to go but down coming off an historic debut game. Hall of Fame beat writer Hal McCoy is asking himself the same thing:
Bill James wrote about game significance in one of his Abstracts in regards to Roger Clemens. Sometimes a pitcher does something so extreme in a game that it becomes a sign of their potential greatness. For Roger, it was striking out 15 in a game while walking none. Bill noted the combination of high strikeouts and zero walks is very unusual. Roger would go on to twice strike out 20 in game without issuing a walk.
Cuteo's performance isn't as extreme, but he only went seven innings. This game should be taken as an extremely positive sign of Johnny's future.
A word of caution here - and not to be one to toss ice water on the cat. Don’t dive head first overboard on Cueto’s one start.
He is 22. He has very little experience. He will hit bumps and pot holes along the way. Too often all of us have gone cuckoo and ga-ga much too quickly with Reds pitchers.
Can you say Jack Armstrong or Scott Scudder or Ty Howington or Brett Tomko or Ryan Wagner or Chris Gruler or C.J. Nitkowski - or, yes, Homer Bailey?
It was a wow-em debut, extremely enjoyable to witness. He has the stuff to continue doing it, but human foibles sometimes work in strange ways.
But for me, give me a towel and dry off that cat, then I’ll dive overboard. The kid is something and let’s see what Volques does.
Local boy veteran Reds reliever Kent Mercker and Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer John Fay were having a bit of trouble containing their enthusiasm:
In the clubhouse after the game, Kent Mercker called me over and asked:
"When's the last time the Reds had anyone deal like this?"
Me: "A homegrown player? Mario Soto."
Merck: "No, anyone."
Me: "Jose Rijo, maybe."
Merck: "I don't think he threw that hard. He had that nasty slider."
Me: "This kid's pretty good, eh?"
Merck: "You know what, Volquez is just as good."