Johnny Cueto has been removed from the Reds’ playoff roster due to his strained oblique, which means he will not start Game 4 of the NLDS tonight and will not be eligible to pitch in the NLCS if Cincinnati advances past San Francisco.
Cueto exited his Game 1 start after just eight pitches and given the typical recovery timetable for oblique injuries the odds were against him being ready for an NLCS start anyway, so the Reds made the move in order to activate Mike Leake for tonight’s start against the Giants.
The alternative was using Mat Latos on short rest after he threw 57 pitches in relief of Cueto in Game 1. Leake has been throwing on the side in order to stay ready if needed, but he was left off the postseason roster and hasn’t pitched since tossing six shutout innings against the Pirates on September 29. And if there’s a Game 5 the Reds will turn to Latos on full rest.
Cueto, who didn’t miss a start in the regular season while going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 217 innings, would be eligible to return for the World Series. Leake had a 4.58 ERA and 116/41 K/BB ratio in 179 innings during the regular season, including a one-run complete game in his lone start against the Giants.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.