Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto
Cueto during his debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2015
Free agent
Starting pitcher
Born: (1986-02-15) February 15, 1986
San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic
Bats: Right Throws: Right
MLB debut
April 3, 2008, for the Cincinnati Reds
MLB statistics
(through 2015 season)
Win–loss record 96-70
Earned run average 3.30
Strikeouts 1,171
Career highlights and awards

Johnny Brent Cueto Ortiz (Spanish: ; born February 15, 1986) is a Dominican professional baseball pitcher who is a free agent. He has played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Cincinnati Reds from 2008 through 2015 and the Kansas City Royals in 2015.

Cueto made his major league debut in 2008, and by 2011 had emerged as one of the top pitchers in the National League. He won 19 games in 2012, helping lead the Reds to the NL Central title. He was an MLB All-Star in 2014.


  • Minor league career 1
  • Major league career 2
    • Cincinnati Reds 2.1
      • 2008: Rookie season 2.1.1
      • 2009 2.1.2
      • 2010 2.1.3
      • 2011 2.1.4
      • 2012 2.1.5
      • 2013 2.1.6
      • 2014 2.1.7
      • 2015 2.1.8
    • Kansas City Royals 2.2
  • Background and influences 3
  • Pitching style 4
  • World Baseball Classic 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Minor league career

Cueto was in the Minor Leagues for three seasons, and has excelled at many levels, but really turned heads during the 2007 season. Cueto started his career for the Gulf Coast Reds of the Rookie Gulf Coast League, posting a 5.02 ERA, before being promoted to the High-A Sarasota Reds of the Florida State League, where he finished his 2005 season. Johnny has had progressively better seasons since. In 2006, Cueto was placed in Low A Dayton, blasting out of the gates, and posting a 2.61 ERA, and a 0.88 WHIP. While with Dayton, on May 13, 2006, he threw a rain shortened no-hitter against Wisconsin.[1] He was later promoted back to Sarasota, where he finished his season for the second consecutive year. Poised for a breakout 2007, Cueto was placed, once again, in Sarasota. He pitched 14 games in Sarasota, before going on a hot streak, and advancing through three levels in one season. He burnt through AA Chattanooga, and AAA Louisville throughout the rest of his 2007 campaign.[2] He was named the Reds' Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season.[3]

Major league career

Cincinnati Reds

2008: Rookie season

Cueto made his Major League debut on April 3, 2008, for the Reds at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he carried a perfect game through five innings before surrendering a home run to Justin Upton in the top of the sixth inning. The home run was the only baserunner he allowed, striking out 10 in 7 innings. Cueto was credited with the win in his debut, as the Reds hung on to win 3–2. Cueto was the first Red since 1900 to throw ten strikeouts in his Major League debut. He was also the first MLB pitcher to have 10 strikeouts and 0 walks in his debut. He was the third in MLB history to have 10 strikeouts and give up only 1 hit.[4] For the game, Cueto's ERA was 1.29 on 92 pitches. Despite his impressive debut, Cueto was inconsistent for the most part on the season. At the end of the 2008 campaign, he finished with a 9–14 record with an ERA of 4.81.


Cueto with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009

Cueto started 2009 as the Reds #4 starter. Cueto's ERA was initially one of the best in the majors, leading the NL at one point at 2.17. His BB/9 lowered as the 2009 season progressed. He found the strike zone more often, resembling the 2008 performance of his teammate Edinson Volquez. On July 6, 2009, Cueto suffered the worst defeat in his young career. Taking the mound against the Phillies, he was shelled; Cueto allowed 9 earned runs on 5 hits, walking 3.[5] To top it off, all this happened in the first inning, and Cueto was taken out of the game after only recording two outs. The Phillies scored 10 runs that inning. Cueto would finish the season with a record of 11–11, and an ERA of 4.41.


Cueto started the 2010 season as the Reds' third starter. After getting off to an average start, Cueto delivered arguably his best performance since his debut on May 11, pitching a one hit shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He walked none and hit one batter, leading the Reds to a 9–0 victory.

On August 12, Cueto was suspended 7 games for what Major League Baseball described as his "violent and aggressive actions" in a bench-clearing brawl in the first inning of the Reds' August 10 game against the St. Louis Cardinals.[6] While pinned to the backstop, Cueto began kicking wildly at various Cardinals, injuring Chris Carpenter and Jason LaRue.[7][8] LaRue suffered a severe concussion in the brawl, and was forced to retire after the season.

Cueto finished the 2010 season with a 12–7 record and a 3.64 ERA. In Game 3 of the NLDS, he allowed 2 runs (1 earned) in 5 innings and took the loss as Cole Hamels pitched a shutout. Following the 2010 season, the Reds[9] and Cueto agreed to a 4-year, $27 million contract.


Cueto began the season on the disabled list and returned on May 8. Since he missed a lot of starts from being on the disabled-list, he didn't become eligible for the ERA race until his start against the San Francisco Giants on July 31, where he pitched a 3 hit, complete game shutout. He then took the Major League Baseball lead with a 1.72 ERA. He lost eligibility, twice, due to lack of innings since, but retook the National League lead in ERA after throwing 7 innings of shutout ball against the Colorado Rockies on August 11. As the season progressed, Cueto began incorporating more and more of a turn to his windup. At the start of the season, his windup featured a conventional step, keeping his body pointed at third base before delivering to the plate. However, by late July, Cueto's torso faces second base and he pauses for a brief moment. Many people have compared this turn to Boston Red Sox great Luis Tiant's famous turn. As of August 25, he was tied with Jered Weaver for the best ERA in all of Major League Baseball at 2.03.

Cueto's bid for the ERA title and season came to end after he strained a muscle in his back on September 15, while pitching vs the Cubs. On September 20, the team decided to shut down Cueto for the year without risking further injury.[10] Cueto finished the season with a 2.31 ERA in 156.0 innings - only 6 full innings short of qualifying for the ERA title.


Cueto started on Opening Day for the Reds and went on to win 19 games against only 9 losses with a 2.78 earned run average.

Cueto started game 1 of the National League Division Series against San Francisco, but had to leave after only eight pitches because of a strained muscle in his back. After the Giants won Game 3, forcing a fourth game of the NLDS, the Reds replaced Cueto on the playoff roster with Mike Leake, who was their fifth starter during the season and would go on to pitch the fourth game of the NLDS.


Cueto suffered from a variety of injures in 2013, limiting him to only 11 starts on the season. In those 11 starts, Cueto had a record of 5–2 with a 2.82 ERA and 51 strikeouts.

Despite his limited season, Cueto was chosen to start the 2013 NL Wild Card Game, against longtime division rival the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cueto was met by a pumped Pittsburgh crowd, who had not seen a playoff game in 20 years. The fans chanted Cueto's name the entire game, as they tried to rattle him. After already giving up a second-inning home run to Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd, Cueto, who was having his name mockingly chanted by over 40,000 people, dropped the ball off the mound, much to the delight of the Pittsburgh crowd. On the very next pitch he threw, Cueto gave up another home run to Pirates catcher Russell Martin, giving Pittsburgh an early 2–0 lead. Cueto would end up giving up 2 more runs, and was pulled after 3.1 innings, having already given up 4 earned runs on 8 hits. The Reds would show little resistance the rest of the way, and the Pirates won the game 6–2, advancing to an NLDS series with other division rival the St. Louis Cardinals. Cueto took the loss in the game, which ended the season for both Cueto and the Reds.


On September 28, 2014, Cueto achieved his 20th win of the 2014 season, becoming the first Cincinnati Reds player to achieve 20 or more victories in a season since Danny Jackson achieved the feat in 1988. The final score of the game, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, was 4-1. Cueto pitched a total of 8 innings and was allowed to bat in the 8th inning instead of a pinch hitter, with the game tied 1-1 and a runner on third base. Cueto hit a go-ahead single and Aroldis Chapman picked up the save for the game in the 9th.[11] On November 12, 2014, Cueto finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting to Clayton Kershaw.[12]


On April 6, Cueto recorded the 1,000th strikeout of his career in a 5–2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.[13]

Kansas City Royals

On July 26, 2015, Cueto was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Brandon Finnegan and minor leaguers John Lamb and Cody Reed.[14]

In his home debut with the Royals, Cueto threw a 4-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers. This gave him his first win in a Royals uniform.

After a promising start, Cueto struggled down the stretch, posting a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts after joining the Royals. After a mediocre performance in game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Cueto returned to form in game 5, pitching eight dominant innings, striking out 8 and retiring his final 19 batters. The only hits he allowed came on back-to-back pitches: an infield single by Evan Gattis and a home run by Luis Valbuena. The Royals went on to win 7-2, eliminating the Astros and securing a spot in the ALCS for the second straight season. In the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays,[15] Cueto took the loss in game 3 after giving up eight earned runs in two innings as the Royals' series lead shrunk to 2 games to 1.[16]

Cueto started in game two of the World Series, pitched a complete game and only gave up two hits and one run to give the Royals a 7-1 victory over the New York Mets and a 2-0 series lead.[17] Cueto became the first AL pitcher to throw a complete game in the World Series since Minnesota's Jack Morris in 1991.[18]

Background and influences

Cueto's road to the Major League was a trying one because many teams were wary of his small stature. "Some told me I was too short, others thought I was in fact older than the age that appeared in my papers," said the right-handed fireballer. He is listed at 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m), but some believe he is closer to 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m). However, rather than give in to the criticism, Cueto looked to another undersized Dominican pitcher, Pedro Martínez, for inspiration. "Pedro has been my inspiration, the person for whom I decided to stop playing outfield to become a pitcher," Cueto said. "One of my biggest dreams is to be able to meet Pedro in person, shake his hand and tell him that he has been my hero and my role model."[19]

Pitching style

Cueto throws a variety of pitches, although his main ones are a four-seam fastball (91–95 m.p.h.), a two-seam fastball (92–95 m.p.h.), and a slider (81–86 m.p.h.). He also has a changeup (82–84 m.p.h.), a curveball (78–80 m.p.h.), and a cutter (87–90 m.p.h.). Cueto only throws his changeup to left-handed hitters, and he rarely uses his curveball. He often likes to use his slider with two strikes.[20] Cueto's distinctive wind-up, which begins by spinning back towards second base so that his back faces the batter, has been compared to that of Luis Tiant and Hideo Nomo.[21] Cueto's unorthodox delivery led Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to question its legality during and after Cueto's shutout of the Tigers in August 2015. Ausmus argued to umpire Joe West during the game and to reporters after the game that Cueto sometimes stops in his wind-up, thereby making those pitches illegal.[22]

World Baseball Classic

Cueto was a member of the Dominican Republic national baseball team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.


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External links

  • Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
  • Johnny Cueto on Twitter
  • Johnny Cueto on Instagram