CINCINNATI — It is really too bad when a team’s best news is that an injured player isn’t too bad, isn’t so bad that the player requires surgery.
But that’s where the Cincinnati Reds are these days, a scuffling, dragging, listless team that is searching for any scrap of positive re-enforcement.
So when it was revealed Tuesday that pitcher Johnny Cueto’s sore elbow has no structural damage, that there is nothing more than inflammation, it was almost as if they were dancing in the clubhouse with lamp shades on their heads.
NEVER MIND THAT it isn’t certain when Cueto will return to the rotation and that the rotation is now manned by three rookies — Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias.
Cueto missed his turn Sunday in Cleveland and while the MRI results are spirit-lifting, he still has to throw to see if he can return to the rotation sooner than later. They Reds went through this before with Homer Bailey — and how did that turn out?
“It is good news because it is a clean bill of health as far as any structural damage,” said manager Bryan Price. “There is still a little bit of inflammation in the elbow, which is a part of pitching. More than anything, this gives us peace of mind in that there is no injury that could linger or get worse.”
PRICE SAID CUETO still has to throw in the next day or two to make certain the stiffness and soreness is out, “Before we can schedule a bullpen session and then schedule his next start. It will be a couple of days before we know when he will be back in the rotation. He has to kick the tires on how the elbow feels.”
Certainly the Reds want a healthy Johnny Cueto on the mound to showcase him for a possible trade. Damaged goods don’t bring much on the trade market. And Cueto wants to make sure he stays healthy so the big bucks will be dangled in his face when he becomes a free agent after the season.
BRANDON PHILLIPS was not in Tuesday’s lineup after his turf toe flared up Sunday in Cleveland. Phillips played Monday but it was evident his toe limited him.
“He aggravated it in Cleveland, but until you actually see it on the field you are not going to hear much about it from Brandon,” said Price. “He is not going to alert anybody about it. He’ll just go out and play and when it becomes noticeable we take the lead to make sure he gets adequate treatment and not continue to aggravate it.”
THERE IS AN EXTRA pitcher in the bullpen right now, so the Reds are a position player short. And it probably will stay that way for a while, out of necessity.
“We just took two of our long guys out of the bullpen to put in the rotation in Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias,” said Price. “We have had short starts from our starters over the last week-and-a-half so the bullpen could really need that extra guy,” he said. But with off days Thursday and Monday, Price believes the team will retreat back to a seven-man bullpen instead of the eight residing there now.
SO WHAT IS THE future for disabled catcher Devin Mesoraco? Can he catch again? Will he undergo surgery to fix his hip impingement? Hang loose on that one.
“Our options with Devin are fairly limited for him to be a bench-type offensive player (when he comes back),” said Price. “We have to investigate a way for him to play a different position, which I think would be a challenge temporarily, or to go out and correct the problem (surgery) and look toward 2016.”
PRICE’S PRE-GAME TAKE on suffering through a nine-game losing streak: “It comes down to not feeding into the frustration and the stress, even though it is hard not to,” said Price. “Beyond this being our livelihood, it is personal. The driving force as to why we do this is not financial. We just love what we do. So when our players are struggling and our team is struggling, you struggle with them.
“A little levity might be needed — take a selective sigh and breathe a little bit,” he added. “We’re playing a game we all love and are totally invested in it. Just get back to playing and having fun. And that’s hard to do when you are on a losing streak. But that eventually is what leads you back to victory.”