COMMENTARY | Johnny Cueto needs to be the Cincinnati Reds ace if they want to have any chance at making a deep post season run in 2013. When Cueto arrived in 2008, he grabbed the attention of Reds fans everywhere by striking out 10 while allowing one run on one hit in his major league debut. He went on to have a mediocre rookie campaign finishing with a record of 9-14. In his second year, he finished with a record on 11-11 and lowered his ERA to 4.44. He lowered his ERA again in 2010 and improved on his record to finish the season 12-7. The most impressive thing about Cueto has been his ability to improve on his ERA and record every year he’s been in the big leagues.
In 2011, Cueto went from a good pitcher to one of the best pitchers in the National League. As the 2011 season progressed, one thing became noticeably different in Cueto’s delivery. He began twisting his torso toward second base before delivering the pitch to home plate. His delivery has been compared to former MLB pitcher Luis Tiant. Many credit his new found delivery to be one of the things that has propelled him into one of the best pitchers in the NL. While this may be true, the Reds and Cueto have found themselves with a new decision regarding this delivery mechanic.
Cueto had been relatively healthy through his first 3 years in the big leagues, but since he has developed this new twisting mechanic, he has struggled to stay healthy. In September 2011, Cueto strained a muscle in his back forcing him to be shut down for the remainder of the year, which left him six innings short of qualifying for the NL’s ERA title. Every Reds fan can tell you what happened to Cueto eight pitches into Game 1 of the 2012 NLDS against the Giants (oblique injury for those non-Reds fans). Cueto has spent the last month on the Disabled List due to a strained right lat, and then re-aggravated the same oblique that he injured in last year’s playoffs. With all the twisting and turning that Cueto puts his body through on every pitch, is it time for the Reds to ban him from pitching like that? Are these injuries fluke injuries that are unrelated to Cueto’s delivery mechanics?
You can make the argument that Cueto became one of the best pitchers in the NL after he changed his delivery. You can also make the argument that over time, he’s learned how to pitch at the big league level, and he doesn’t need the twisting action to be the dominant pitcher that he is. Both sides can agree that he’s not doing the Reds any good by spending time on the DL. Which side are you on? Do you think the Reds should allow Cueto his Tiant-like twist, or force him to pitch with a more traditional delivery?
Michael Wilder is a freelance sports writer. You can follow him on twitter @iamwilder12