Johnny Cueto makes Triple-A start
And Homer Bailey might be right behind him.
The defending NL Central champions have managed to stay in first place despite missing half of their planned rotation. The two right-handers are on throwing programs and could be back in a couple of weeks.
Cueto threw 55 pitches for Triple-A Louisville on Saturday, showing good control in his first game since spring training. Cueto and Bailey opened the season on the disabled list with shoulder problems.
"It felt good -- no pain, no nothing," Cueto said Sunday.
He threw 32 strikes out of 55 pitches, a sign that the shoulder tightness that bothered him last month is gone. He was put on a throwing program to get rid of the problem.
"The No. 1 thing is that he's feeling good, and then that he's throwing strikes," pitching coach Bryan Price said Sunday.
Cueto will throw 70 to 75 pitches in his next start in the minors, then push his pitch count to 90-95. If there are no problems, he could be activated.
Bailey was scheduled to start his minor league stint Sunday at Louisville, facing the same timetable for return.
"We're still planning for a couple more starts and [returning] toward the end of the month, considering no setbacks or anything," manager Dusty Baker said.
The Reds' lineup also is a bit depleted. Second baseman Brandon Phillips was out Sunday for the third straight game because of a strained groin. He took infield practice before the game.
"He's getting better," Baker said. "We don't have to rush him back. We're trying to take our time and win at the same time. Hopefully we caught it early enough to where it's not too serious. You don't just heal overnight."
Infielder Juan Francisco also was out Sunday. He got a severe cramp in his left calf from an awkward move in the batter's box Saturday. Baker said the calf was still bothering him a day later and might be more severe than initially thought. Francisco was scheduled for a medical exam.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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