Island Update: The Good, The Bad(ass), and The Ugly

First, the ugly:  My house was robbed on Sunday afternoon and my labtop was stolen.  If that wasn't bad enough, I happened to be in my home when the 3 thieves entered.  They held me, my partner, and my roomate at knifepoint before tying us up with phone cable and shoelaces and leaving with our computers, cell phones, and digital cameras.  They were not very experienced or proffessional.  Yes, you could say they lacked veteran presence and they definitely didn't play the game the right way.  We quickly escaped from our make-do shackles and called the police and the rest of our organization.  The police have not been so helpful; the organization has been amazingly supportive.

So, I haven't been able to post much in a few days and maybe be out of evening threads for good, at least for a while.  On  the upside, I am very happy to be alive.

Next, the Bad(ass):  Monday's El Caribe had a full color photo of the Wagon unleashing one of his heaters.  The headline read, "Van 4" (They go to four), as in Volquez has now reached the 4 win mark.  I can't give a link cause the page to the El Caribe archives is not functioning, I can only translate from the newspaper itself.

Finally, the good: Monday's El Caribe also had a two page spread with 3 articles exclusively about Johnny Cueto.  Here are the translations (again, no link because of the same problem above):

Cueto Tells El Caribe That He Feels Like A Veteran

     Johnny Cuetos is a young Dominican pitcher who, in his first year with the Cincinnati Reds, has made a big impression on many people with his vast baseball knowledge.  This has been clearly demonstrated in his starts on the mound.

      Cueto's stint in the Domincan Winter League with the Aguilas Cibaenas, where he compiled a 4-0 record, was an example of the potential possesed by this native of San Pedro de Macoris that has made the Reds take him more seriously.

     "I feel like I have been playing for a while in the Big Leagues.  I feel really good in my first year in the Majors.  I haven't felt fear in my starts, which is an important factor that every young player should have when they get the opportunity to play here.  Thank God that my nerves haven't gotten to me like so many other young players in their first year."

     Cueto is satisfied with his work so far, an opportunity he doesn't want to waste "even though I haven't recieved much run support from my teammates, which is normal in the Big Leagues."

     "I know that I have done a good job, but sometimes I feel bad because the team doesn't help me.  I have the faith of knowing that in the games to come my teammates will have my back.  This is just the start.  In baseball it is not how you start it is how you finish," indicated Cueto, who was signed by Johnny Almarzar in 2004 for $35,000.

    He expressed that the confidence that Dusty Baker has in him has helped him to find success on the mound with Cincinnati, a team that shares last place in the NL central with Pittsburgh.

     "He is an excellent manager.  He gives me confidence and support.  He leaves me to do my work in peace, where other managers are all over their players.  I feel really good with him around," revealed Cueto, who will go against St. Louis [today] for the first time in his career.   

   Calm.  Cueto has shown that he is a pitcher who remains calm when he takes the mound.  He is a young pitcher who is not intimidated by the batters he faces.  He has demonstrated this since his first Big League start this April against Arizona.

     "Thank God that I turned out this way.  I didn't choose it.  I am not afraid of anyone.  I always remain calm.  I don't let anyone intimidate me when I am on the mound."

     Johny (2-1 sic) has an era of 4.05 in 5 starts in which he has given up 16 runs, 15 earned, and 24 hits in 33 1/3 innings.  He has struck out 31 and only walked 5.  He has a big repertoire which includes a cureveball, a fastball , and a changeup that many have called "devastating."  If you ask him which pitch he feels most comfortable throwing the righty from San Pedro will tell you it is the fastball.

     "...Eventhough my breaking ball is just as good as the other pitches I throw.  Thank God I feel good with all of these pitches, and at least for the moment, they are getting the job done.  I hope it stays that way and they don't let me down," he explained. 


Studious From The Bench

     In Cueto's 5 starts with the Reds he has not watched video of his opponents before the game.  Instead, Cueto watches his opponents from the bench the day before his start.  "I don't walk around worrying about this.  When I am going to pitch, the day before, I begin to think about it.  I watch the opposing hitters to see how I am going to prepare when I face them," he expressed.  "That's how I study them: from the dugout.  I observe what each batter doesn't like- if it's a fastball, a change, high, low, or other type of pitch," he added.   

     Furthermore, Cueto says that the key to success that he has found in the Majors, in spite of his 1-2 record, is having confidence in yourself.

     "This has been part of the success- having confidence in myself and realizing tha all of my pitches are effective.  Sometimes I say I am going to throw a slider that starts over the plate and breaks outside, and I do it," explained Cueto, who throws up to 97 mph.

     Another part of this continuing development of a good resume with the Reds has been mental preparation.  "The first thing I do, a day before I pitch, is stay positive.  Sometimes I can't sleep because I am thinking about my next outing, how I am going to pitch, among other things.  These are part of my preparations," said the Dominican who considers himself a pitcher of location and power- a strikeout pitcher.


A Guiding Hand

     Every time a young Domincan player arrives to the Major Leagues on one of the 30 teams there is a mentor that takes him in and treats him like a son, that gives him the advice needed to cut his own path successfully.  Cueto has found Francisco Cordero to be this guiding hand.  "I have learned a lot from Cordero.  He has told me the good and the bad of the Big Leagues, how to do things to keep growing positively and for this I am very thankful.  It is like having an extra family member," the Dominican righty expressed.  Part of the progress Cueto has made on the mound can be attributed to the knowledge he has gained from Cordero.  "Cordero tells me certain things about opposing hitters.  I hope to keep getting advice from him because it is not just beneficial to me, but to the entire team- a team I am thankful to be a part of."

 Cool to hear that Cueto is feeling as confident as he looks and that Cordero has really taken him under his wing.  I have said it before, but I think this group of really talented Dominicans (yet with still a lot of unmet potential), will really be supportive of each other and lead to new levels of success for the Cincinnati Reds.

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