Reds manager Dusty Baker assured the media on Wednesday that he’s not a doctor. Dr. Dusty does have a good ring to it, though, and that title would have helped him make sense of the daily injury news.
A day doesn’t pass without Baker having to answer questions about an injured pitcher. On Monday, it was Sean Marshall. On Tuesday, it was Tony Cingrani. On Wednesday, it was Johnny Cueto.
Cueto threw close to 68 pitches to hitters off the mound at Great American Ball Park before the Reds beat the Cubs 6-0 in the finale of a three-game series. This was the next step for Cueto, who has been on the disabled list since June 29 with a strained right lat muscle.
“I thank God that I feel good and I feel healthy,” Cueto said.
Jack Hannahan, Neftali Soto and Derrick Robinson hit against Cueto. Pitching coach Bryan Price watched the simulated game from behind a screen behind the mound. Baker and trainer Paul Lessard watched from behind the batting cage.
All eyes were on Cueto, whose return seems more important after Cingrani left Tuesday’s game with back spasms.
“He was throwing pretty good,” Baker said. “That’s not surprising to me. He’s so mechanically sound. He tired a little bit at the end, which is to be expected. It’s a matter of endurance. His velocity was still pretty good. We had a radar gun out there to see if there was a drop in velocity when he had a number of pitches.
“That’s good news to have him even (pitching). You could tell by the look on his face. He wears his emotions on his face. He always has a good time pitching. He enjoys pitching. He enjoys competing. He was having fun. That’s a good indicator he was feeling good.”
The next step is to wait and see how Cueto feels in the coming days. The Reds are off today and begin a three-game series in Milwaukee on Friday. Fifteen games remain in the regular season.
“Everybody wants to know what happens in the future,” Baker said. “We’ll try to be optimistically cautious.”
Bullpen status: The silver lining of the Reds’ 9-1 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday was they didn’t use the top relievers in their bullpen. Cingrani lasted 1 2/3 innings because of back spasms. Greg Reynolds, Nick Christiani, Curtis Partch, Zach Duke and Logan Ondrusek took over from there.
That allowed Baker to use J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra and Sam LeCure to finish the 6-0 win over the Cubs on Wednesday.
“That’s the beauty of September call-ups,” Baker said. “The guys can absorb the blowout losses and take the innings.”
By the numbers: The team that scored first won all three games in the series. The Reds are 62-21 when scoring first.
• The Reds are 52 strikeouts short of tying the club record of 1,248 set last season.
• The Reds are 60,535 fans short of tying the Great American Ball Park single-season attendance record set in 2003. They have six more home games in the last week of the season against the Mets and Pirates, following a nine-game road trip to Milwaukee, Houston and Pittsburgh.
• Zack Cozart went hitless Wednesday, snapping his career-best 15-game hitting streak.