Within the last month Beavercreek’s Justin Masterson acquired three new things in his life — a one-year, $9,726.500 contract with the Cleveland Indians and a set of twins.
Guess what he’s proudest about? His smile said it all when he said, “Nadia and Cruz, born exactly a month ago today.”
Masterson was talking shortly after pitching a scoreless first inning in a Cactus League game against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
On the other side, Johnny Cueto made his spring debut and pitched two scoreless innings in a 12-3 Cleveland victory, although he walked two and gave up a double.
Masterson’s twins are forever while the contract is just a one-year stopgap. While there are those in the Indians’ inner circle who believe the Tribe can’t afford him, Masterson says his agent is talking about a multi-year deal.
“I figure that somehow, some way, I’ll be here (with the Indians) for another couple years,” the Beavercreek High School graduate said. “We’ve talked about it. We’ve been talking. Nothing monumental yet, but we’ve talked a bit. If something gets done it will be before the season begins.”
Masterson smiled and said there are a few weeks of exhibition games left and “maybe they’ll wonder, ‘Do we really want this guy?’ ”
Yeah, they do. He is Cleveland’s No. 1, a guy who was 14-10 last year with a 3.45 earned-run average. But the six-year, $105 million contract the Reds gave Homer Bailey sent shudders and tremors through the Indians front office.
Masterson had fun with the writers after his one-inning outing and said, “Just like you try to master your craft, try to write better, I’ll continue to try to hit my spots better.”
And it is no secret Masterson likes to hit his spots with fastball after fastball after fastball, although he mixes in a slider and said he threw it more last season.
“I’m getting away from the ego part and saying, ‘Hey, there is no trophy at the end of the year for the man who throws the most fastballs,’ ” he said. “But I did have a game last season where I threw 106 fastballs out of 107 pitches. I threw one, for fun, slider.”
Although he looked shaky, especially in the second inning when he walked two, Cueto reported everything was perfection.
“I felt good, I felt great,” he said when asked if he felt anything lingering or sore after his lat problems last season.
Early this spring Cueto said he was going to modify his Luis Tiant back-to-the-batter twist on his delivery. But it looked nearly the same Thursday as it looked last season — maybe 10 percent less turn.
“I would say it is the same, just a little touch, a shorter turn, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I feel really great,” he said. His velocity looked at mid-season speed and he said, “That’s because I felt the ball was coming out of my hand really well.”
His two-inning outing consisted of 45 pitches and he said, “I threw all my pitches and they all felt great.”
After Cueto walked two of the first three batters in the second, new pitching coach Jeff Pico made his first spring visit to the mound.
“I was opening up too much, landing too much toward first base,” said Cueto. “Pico told me what I was doing and we both agreed and I closed it up a little bit.”
After Pico’s visit Cuetro retired Mike Treanor on a soft liner to shortstop and struck out Elliott Johnson.
Zack Cozart gave the Reds a 2-0 lead in the second with a double but was overly aggressive and tried to stretch it into a triple and was thrown out, making the first out of the inning.
Johnson hit a two-run home run in the third off David Holmberg to tie it, 2-2, then the Indians scored seven in the fifth (five) and sixth (two) to pull away. Dan Corcino gave up four runs, one hit and three walks in tw0-thirds of an inning and Ismael Guillion gave up three runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings.