Unfortunately for Cincinnati Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto, lowlights have usurped highlights when it comes to memorable career moments.
Whether it’s kick spiking St. Louis Cardinals players in the face and side during a 2010 brawl, coming up lame after recording one out in the 2012 divisional series opener, or literally dropping the ball on the mound during the Reds’ 2013 wildcard loss while fans of a team that hadn’t recorded a winning season in 20 years chanted his name, Cueto is too often overlooked for a career that has positioned him as an ace among aces.
Despite pitching half his starts in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, Cueto ranks second in ERA (2.61) since 2011 among major league starters who have thrown at least 400 innings during that span.
Since 2010, Cueto is fourth among all NL starters in ERA (2.96) who have pitched more than 600 innings. Given his recent success that included a 19-win season in 2012, it’s no wonder the Reds pinned their playoff hopes on Cueto down the stretch last year.
The success of the 2014 Reds would receive a tremendous boost if Cueto can return to form and remain healthy for the entire season.
Lost in the not-too-distant past is the historic debut of Cueto, who became just the fourth pitcher to surrender just one hit and strike out at least 10 in his major league starting debut since Hall of Famer Juan Marichal accomplished that feat in 1960.
In his debut on April 3, 2008, Cueto did not walk a batter, which makes him the only of those aforementioned four pitchers including Marichal in 1960 to give up just one hit while striking out at least 10 batters and walking none in their major league starting debut.
Cueto experienced growing pains as a starter for the rest of his rookie campaign, as well as his second year before developing the consistency that has transformed him into an ace.
The second coming of that ace among aces would go a long way to help the 2014 Reds offset injuries to the pitching staff, starting with Cueto’s first draw as opening day starter.