CINCINNATI — After watching Johnny Cueto walk six batters in four innings Sunday, two with the bases loaded, it seems as if Dire Straits might be talking about him when they sang ‘Walk of Life.
The lyrics are eerie: “Here comes Johnny. . .he got the action, he got the motion, yeah the boy can play. . .he do the walk, he do the walk of life. . .hand me down my walkin’ shoes, here comes Johnny with the power and the glory.”
Does that fit, or what?
SOME WONDER IF Cueto’s last two subpar performances have tarnished his trade value, especially the six walks.
Scouts, though, weren’t as much concerned about his walk of life on the wild side as they were that he was throwing an inordinate amount of changeups Sunday.
IS THERE SOMETHING wrong with his arm? Cueto has missed two starts this year and has been pushed back twice from scheduled starts. And he has a history of time on the disabled list.
That’s the big concern about Cueto and it is the reason the Cincinnati Reds should have traded him yesterday.
AFTER CHECKING THE scout population watching the Reds recently, here is the list of players, in order, on their lists: Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, Jay Bruce, Marlon Byrd, Brayan Pena.
Former Reds first baseman Hal Morris, now Director of Scouting for the Los Angeles Angels, spent the weekend in the scout seats in GABP and the word is that he was watching Bruce.
TRADE TALK IS A new experience for Bruce, who has been in the Reds organization for 11 years after being a No. 1 draft pick.
“It is new and it is weird, but it is a necessary part of the business,” said Bruce. “Everybody is always looking out for their best interests and the Reds are looking out for their best interest as far as their future goes.
“The Angels, or whoever, are looking our for their best interests by trading for a piece for now and the future.”
BRUCE REALIZES teams looking for outfielders with power look toward him because he has another year and a team option on his contract and isn’t a half-a-season rent-an-outfielder. Plus the face he is playing well right now. After an abysmal start, since May 16 Bruce is hitting .306 with nine homers, 18 doubles and 30 RBI.
“This is all that I know, all that I know is Cincinnati and it is pretty crazy that it coiuld be coming to an end,” he said. “But it could not happen, too. You can speculate all you want trying to figure out what is going to happen, but you have no idea. The front office has a plan and what will happen is what they want to happen.
“It has been a fun ride here and I’ve said many times my goal was to finish my career here,” he added. “That’s not out of the picture, but at the end of the day it is a business and out of my control. If it happens, the next chapter will start. But this place, man, is home to me. I’d be lying if I say I’m not paying attention to it, but I’m not worried about it.”
IT WAS A shock in the 10th inning Sunday afternoon to look up and see catcher Tucker Barnhart playing right field, a position he has never played, not even Little League.
It was a shock to him, too, when manager Bryan Price told him, “You’re going into right field.”
Said Barnhart, “I thought they were joking for a minute. But circumstances called for it. I used to play a bunch of positions growing up, but outfield wasn’t one of them. But I like to think that, in quotes, I’m a ‘ballplayer.’
BARNHART HAS NOTHING in his locker but a catcher’s mitt, but as Price said, “He wasn’t wearing a catcher’s mitt out there.”
He borrowed a glove from Billy Hamilton and Hamilton told him, “If anything comes your way, just stick your glove out and it will close when the ball hits it.”
The first batter of the inning struck out, but then things began to happen. As former manager Gene Mauch always said, “You can’t hide anybody on defense because the ball always finds them.”
THEN THREE CLEVELAND Indians hit balls to right field, all base hits. Barnhart fielded them cleanly and as Price said, “He threw every ball back to the infielder chest-high.”
Said Barnhart, “I wasn’t nervous, I was just thinking how can I do this without getting us beat. Looking at the video, there was one ball I probably could have caught, but I just wanted to keep balls in front of me.”
ANOTHER DAY, another pitcher goes down. Relief pitcher Manny Parra went on the disabled list after pitching 1 1/3 innings Sunday with a strained right elbow. He was replaced by Dylan Axelrod, who started four games for the Reds last year and was 2-and-1 with a 2.95 ERA. He has been converted to the bullpen this year.
“It’s new,” Price said of Parra’s elbow strain. “He had some issues with the elbow last season that were addressed in the off-season. It’s new to the injury report. He was experiencing some soreness in his second inning and we didn’t know about it until afterwards.”
Price said it needs some strengthening but that the medical staff is confident he can return after 15 days on the disabled list.
“I’m comfortable with Dylan (Axelrod) because he threw well for us last year,” Price said. “He has transitioned recently to the bullpen in Triple-A and that experience plus he has other history in the bullpen will help him get acclimated for us and pump strikes. He historically throws strikes and pitches to contact. He’ll get his chance because everybody here pitches.”
MIDDLETON NATIVE/catcher Kyle Schwarber, drafted No. 1 by the Chicago Cubs last year, was in the starting lineup against the Reds Monday night.
And Price is very aware of the 22-year-old who was signed out of Indiana University. He even hinted that he was on the Reds’ potential draftee list. But the Reds picked 19th that year and the Cubs took him first.
“He certainly was on our radar and not just because he was a local kid, but because he is a very, very talented player. He has certainly shown up as a great offensive piece in his limited amount of time up there. How many guys are drafted one year and show up in the big leagues the next year?”
In nine games, Schwarber is hitting .393 in 28 at-bats with a homer and six RBI.
“It says a lot about the Cubs confidence in his ability to help them,” said Price.