Cueto to DL

The Cincinnati rotation did not miss a start last year but that streak is now in jeopardy as Johnny Cueto is expected to go on the DL with a strained lat muscle. Though it's a severe blow to Cincinnati early season aspirations, Reds fans are hopeful it won't be long term and it will likely give opportunity for minor league dominator Tony Cingrani to show what he's ready to do at the MLB level.

It's only eleven games into the season and the Cincinnati Reds have already been bitten by the injury bug and hard. Cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick is out until the second half of the season after separating a shoulder on opening day. Lefty reliever Sean Marshall joined him on the DL with shoulder fatigue after only one appearance. Now reports are that Johnny Cueto is headed to the 15-day DL with a strained lat muscle.

The injury will end a remarkable streak for the Reds rotation after not missing a start all of last season when they were one of only nine teams in history to get thirty starts from five different pitchers. In his last appearance Cueto was removed from the game prematurely from a sharp pain in this triceps in a move thought to be precautionary. This is the second back related injury the Reds ace has suffered in recent history after pulling a muscle in his lower back that knocked him out of the playoffs last year.

Of course Reds fans are hopeful that his time away is brief. Perhaps team trainers are be wondering if his unique delivery may be contributing to fatigue related ailments. It's no secret that MLB prefer taller pitchers in their rotations who can use their long frames to generate power into pitches with less strain as they handle the workload of starting pitcher. That doesn't mean that pitches under 6'0" can't be good starters. Cueto starting throwing from a new delivery after coming off the DL to begin the 2011 season that utilized extra twist in the torso to provide additional torque without excess stress on the arm. Since he began using it he's become one of the elite pitchers in baseball, finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting last year and starting out this season with a 2.60 ERA in three starts.

In a move that was probably not coincidental Louisville starter Tony Cingrani was lifted from the game after two innings last night at Toledo. He struck out five of seven batters faced and the only base-runner allowed was when he committed an error. If mowing down AAA hitters for three starts to begin the season is any indication that a pitcher is ready for a promotion then Cingrani can be put on that list. He's allowed only three hits and two walks in fourteen scoreless innings while striking out 26. Last year he had the lowest ERA of all minor league pitchers when he started the season in single A and finished the year pitching five innings for the Reds.

During the offseason there was some speculation that the former collegiate closer Cingrani might be a candidate to start the season in the Reds bullpen to provide an additional left-handed reliever. However statements from management stated they preferred having him continue development as a starter and they eventually signed veteran Manny Parra. The Reds also didn't use him to replace southpaw Marshall who went on the DL last week. He doesn't appear to be challenged much by AAA hitters and now he might get a chance to make this next promotion his last one.

Depending on the seriousness of Cueto's injury, if they look at the current active roster for brief fillers there are a couple of relievers that have started MLB games in the past. Alfredo Simon struggled in that role along with every other one he tried in Baltimore before the Reds picked him up off waivers last year. He had a fine 2012 campaign as their long-man and finished with an ERA under three, but he's been tagged for five runs in seven innings pitched thus far in 2013. Sam LeCure has started ten games for the Reds but he's been one of their more reliable set-up men and they would likely prefer to keep him in the pen where they've had problems preserving leads for closer Aroldis Chapman while being charged with five of the team's seven loss.

The Reds were persistent to have Cingrani remain a minor league starter and now the signs are in place that it's his time to give it a try at the MLB level. Even though it's ahead of schedule doesn't necessarily mean it's too early. His minor league career suggests that he can be something special and given the chance he could make it very difficult to remove him from the rotation when Cueto is ready to return. It was just one year ago when Todd Frazier started the season in Louisville and early season injuries eventually gave him the opportunity to become a finalist for NL Rookie of the Year. Perhaps something similar could happen to the Reds rotation in 2013.

Other News in the Organization: The Reds blew a five run lead and lost 10-7 as the Pirates completed a sweep at Pittsburgh. Mat Latos started out with six shutout innings but ran into trouble in the seventh. He finished with a quality start and no decision, allowing three in six plus and giving up nine hits while striking out six. After four scoreless appearances to start the season Jonathan Broxton was hammered in the eighth for six runs including a couple of homers for his first loss of the year.

Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup and got the scoring started with a two-run single in the first inning. He delivered another hit in the fifth to drive in a run and make the score 5-0. Shin-Sin Choo had a couple of hits including a double in the second that drove in one run and plated another from an error. Jack Hannahan broke a tie in the eighth with an RBI from a pinch-hit single and Joey Votto popped his first home run of the season in the ninth after walking three times on the afternoon. Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier also contributed a couple of hits each and both scored a run. Six different Reds crossed the plate including Zach Cozart and Ryan Hanigan who both reached safely twice via a hit and a walk.

Louisville won a low-scoring affair in a 2-1 game at Toledo. After Cingrani departed Chad Reineke relieved him with four innings and even though he gave up five hits and a walk he allowed only one run for the win. Arredondo contributed a couple of scoreless frames and Kevin Whelan retired the side in order in the ninth for the save. Jason Donald drove in the game's first run with a single in the third and Josh Fellhauer added some insurance with a sac fly the next inning. Henry Rodriguez had two of the Bats six hits on the evening.

Pensacola lost a two-run lead and their game at Mobile by a score of 5-2. Ryan Dennick had a quality start with no decision. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk over six innings while striking out five. Kyle Lotzkar took the loss after entering in the sixth and giving up three hits and the go-ahead run before he was lifted after recording just one out. Donald Lutz had a couple of hits and drove in the game's first run with a single in the first inning. David Vidal provided the other Wahoo run with a solo homer in the fifth.

Bakersfield fell to 1-10 after allowing seven runs in the third inning as visiting Stockton cruised to a 9-2 win. Juan Silverio had three hits on the night and gave the Blaze a 1-0 when he drove in a run with a triple in the second inning. He came back in the fifth and plated their other run with a double. Juan Perez also had a multi-hit game with a couple of singles. Starter Tanner Robles suffered the loss and fell to 0-3 after he was charged with seven runs (six earned) in less than three innings pitched.

Dayton fell behind 8-1 after three innings at Fifth Third Field in a 13-4 loss to Great Lakes. Robert Stephenson took the loss in his worst outing as a professional, allowing eight runs (six earned) in two-plus innings. The Loons weren't much kinder to Wes Mugarian who gave up four more (three earned) in two-plus. Jeff Gelalich and Carlos Sanchez each had two of the Dragons' nine hits as Gelalich crossed the plate twice and Sanchez scored once and drove in one.

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