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Ask Hal: Cueto reminiscent of Soto

Q: Can we now add Mat Latos to the list of pitching casualties belonging to Dusty Baker? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: It would be a short list because Dusty Baker didn’t ruin any pitchers. Any pitcher ruined under his watch was a casualty of Mother Nature. So you think it is Dusty’s fault Latos tore up his knee in spring training and then injured his flexor mass in spring training? Baker was home tending his vineyard near Sacramento.

Q: In context of the great Reds pitchers of the past, where do you rate Johnny Cueto and to whom is he most similar? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: For the first nine games this season he is at the top of the heap. You can’t do much better than to hold the other team to two runs or less nine straight times. And he even does it in Great American Small Park. He reminds me a lot of Mario Soto, except Soto did it with two pitches, a fastball and a change-up. Cueto has more pitches than a snake oil peddler.

Q: Lee Allen wrote in his 1948 book “The Cincinnati Reds” that Evar Swanson ran the bases in 13.3 seconds. Could Billy Hamilton beat him? — GARY, Bjorkvik, Norway.

A: Billy Hamilton’s best is 13.3 seconds. Swanson, an outfielder for the Reds in the early 1930s, also played professional football for the Chicago Cardinals. He was also timed in 13.2 seconds on a minor-league field in Columbus. It would be interesting to have Hamilton circle the bases with a timing device, but I fear the Reds would say, “Only after he hits a ball in a game and circles the bases for an inside-the-park home run.”

Q: Pete Rose said on a TV interview that the great managers had a killer instinct for the entire game and never let up on an opponent. Do you think Bryan Price has that drive to destroy the other team? — JOHN, Dayton.

A: How can a manager destroy the other team from the dugout? That’s up to his players to get a team down and keep it down. The problem with the Reds this year is that they seldom get a team down, let alone keep ‘em down. Before a wrestler can pin his opponent he has to get him down. With their lethargic offense the Reds do little more than circle their opponents.

Q: Have Marty Brennaman and Vin Scully ever shared a broadcast booth, even if only for one inning? — ANTHONY, Fullerton, Calif.

A: Not even for one pitch. First of all, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster prefers the booth all to himself, no cohorts. Brennaman said, “Never has happened. But I sure look forward to the day when he might ask me to do it.” Maybe some day they can share the banana phone.

Q: It seems former Reds infielder Pokey Reese has disappeared from the face of the earth. Whatever happened to him? — MICHAEL, Dayton.

A: If you consider Hopkins, S.C., not part of the earth, then Pokey indeed has fallen off. That’s where he lives. He contacted me a couple of times in the last few months asking me to help him find video of his playing days. I had a good laugh just last week when the Fox postgame show asked an older man who said he was a big Reds fan if he knew Pokey’s real first name. He didn’t know it is Calvin.

Q: Why does Joey Votto never hustle down to first base on a ground ball that he thinks is going to be a routine out? — LU ANN, North College Hill.

A: Votto isn’t alone on this one. I see it in every inning of every game from many major leaguers. That’s why it is so refreshing to see Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier and Skip Schumaker and Billy Hamilton blast toward first as hard as they can. It makes those who don’t hustle look foolish when the shortstop boots the ball but still has time to pick it up and throw them out.

Q: Whatever happened to some of the No. 1 draft picks the Reds had like Chris Gruler, Ty Howington and Brandon Larson? — BRIAN, Beavercreek.

A: Howington (1999) and Gruler (2002) blew out their arms before ever pitching in the majors. Larson (1997) was a third baseman who never made the transition from aluminum bats to wood after tearing it up at LSU. Strange you would mention those three because they all were drafted during Jim Bowden’s general managership. You forgot two more of Bowden’s “dandy” No. 1s, David Espinosa (2000) and Jeremy Sowers ( 2001).

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