From C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer comes word that Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto threw 35 pitches off a mound Tuesday at Great American Ball Park and looked “impressive.”
Cueto has been on the shelf since departing his June 28 start against the Rangers with a severely-strained right lat muscle. He is aiming to rejoin the Cincinnati starting rotation at some point later this month.
Cueto had a 3.33 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 41/14 K/BB ratio through 48 2/3 innings this season for the Reds, who are currently third behind the Pirates and Cardinals in the National League Central standings.
It just got a little more difficult to manufacture a save record not held by Mariano Rivera.
The 43-year-old picked up his 40th save Tuesday against the White Sox, reaching that plateau for the ninth time in his illustrious career. That ties Trevor Hoffman for the most of all-time. No one else has more than four:
9 – Hoffman, Rivera
4 – Dennis Eckersley, Jose Mesa, Robb Nen, Francisco Rodriguez, John Wetteland
3 – Heath Bell, Armando Benitez, Francisco Cordero, Eric Gagne, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Nathan, Jeff Reardon, Jeff Shaw, Lee Smith, John Smoltz, Jose Valverde
Earlier this year, Rivera passed Hoffman for the lead in 30-save seasons, 15-14. Next on that list is Lee Smith with 10 and Billy Wagner with nine. Among active pitchers, Joe Nathan has eight (including this year) and Jonathan Papelbon seven (not yet including this year).
Rivera and Gagne are also the only relievers with a pair of 50-save seasons.
It’s old hat now, but Braves closer Craig Kimbrel is once again threatening to post a sub-1.00 ERA. He’s at 0.94 after pitching a scoreless inning for his 44th save Tuesday against the Mets.
Kimbrel finished last year at 1.01.
There was actually some concern about Kimbrel after he got off to a rough start this spring and took a loss to the Dominican Republic while pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Struggling to find his breaking ball, he wasn’t quite his usual self at the beginning of the regular season, either; he blew three saves in the first five weeks, with his ERA peaking at 3.38 on May 7.
Of course, Kimbrel has allowed all of one run in the nearly four months since. He’s also converted 34 straight save chances.
Kimbrel’s 1.01 ERA last year was the 13th lowest all-time among pitchers to throw at least 50 innings. Tampa Bay’s Fernando Rodney actually set the record last season, coming in at 0.60 to beat out Dennis Eckersley’s 0.61 mark from 1990.
There’s no way Kimbrel is going to top that, but if he keeps putting up zeroes, he’ll likely end up in the 0.80-0.85 range.
That might not be the low mark of 2013, though. Pirates reliever Mark Melancon is at 0.88 at the moment. Both he and Kimbrel have allowed six earned runs, but Melancon tops him in innings 61 1/3 to 57 2/3.
Reds speedster Billy Hamilton made his major league debut as a pinch-runner on Tuesday night after a Ryan Ludwick single to center field and stole second base off Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
Molina probably would have had him if the throw was on line, but knowledge of Hamilton’s base-stealing prowess likely caused the five-time Gold Glove winner to rush it. Hamilton scored moments later when Todd Frazier slapped a double to left field.
Here’s the replay of Hamilton’s first career steal from MLB.com:
Hamilton tallied 395 stolen bases in 502 minor league games. He’s probably up in the majors for good.
Jeff Locke had a hideous 7.94 ERA in five August starts and was demoted to the minor leagues last Wednesday evening. But he is coming right back.
According to MLB.com’s Tom Singer, Locke was officially recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon and will rejoin the Pirates’ starting rotation this Saturday night against the Cardinals.
It’s a crucial start against one of the teams — the other being the Reds — that the Bucs are trying to fend off for the National League Central crown.
Locke posted a stellar 2.15 ERA across 109 innings during the first half of the season and was rewarded in July with his first All-Star nod, but the shine wore off quickly in the second half for the 25-year-old southpaw. He has a 6.18 ERA in 39 1/3 innings since July 21.