GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Johnny Cueto's post-season ended after only eight pitches, a most disappointing way to finish an otherwise stellar year. After taking time off, he has recovered from the injury that cost the Cincinnati Reds their ace and played a major role in their first-round elimination.
And he's eager to pitch in a meaningful game as soon as possible, though his manager would like him to wait.
Last year's 19-game winner said on Wednesday that he's had no lingering problems from the pulled muscles in his right side that knocked him out of the playoff opener in San Francisco.
"I feel good," Cueto said. "I feel 100 percent."
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He adjusted his off-season program to let the injury heal, taking time off instead of throwing. He'd like to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, but he wasn't on its preliminary roster. He hopes to be added to the final roster.
"I haven't heard anything," Cueto said. "I would like to pitch. I was disappointed that I couldn't pitch more in the playoffs."
It'll be fine with Manager Dusty Baker if Cueto is limited to getting into shape during spring training games rather than testing himself in the WBC, which makes him worried about injury.
"Well, I'm not especially OK with that, but I can understand the pressures that come from being from Latin America," Baker said. "There's more national pride than anybody I've seen, almost. Guys from the Dominican are proud to be from there. You see how big the Caribbean Series is for bragging rights in Latin America. They could be where the best overall baseball is played.
"I know the pressures that come from being there when I played winter ball."
Cueto pitched 42⁄3 scoreless innings for the Dominican Republic during a 9-0 win over Panama in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He came down with inflammation in his shoulder the following August. Former Reds starter Edinson Volquez also pitched the WBC and later suffered a torn elbow ligament.
Those injuries made Baker wary.
"All I know is the last time they played it, Cueto and Volquez both came up hurting," Baker said. "We have spring training for a reason. Even when you start the season, the starting pitchers can only go seven innings max. These guys are going to try to do more (with the WBC).
"Imagine a 0-0 game or 1-0 against Venezuela. You've got to take them out. They are not going to come out and I don't blame them."
Cueto was the Reds' top starter during their run to a second NL Central title in three years. He went 19-9 with a 2.78 earned run average and earned two complete games in 33 starts last season. He struck out a team-high 170 batters.
The Reds made it through the season with none of their starters missing a game because of injury. That changed when Cueto pulled muscles in his right side on his eighth pitch in the opening playoff game at San Francisco. The Reds won the first two there, and had three chances to close it out in Cincinnati.
With Cueto still ailing, the Reds replaced him on the roster with Mike Leake. The Reds dropped all three games in Cincinnati and the series.