As if preparing to take the mound in Coors Field isn't enough to make a starting pitcher stress, finding out a handful of minutes prior to the game's first pitch that you've been traded certainly should be. That's precisely the scenario that preceded Johnny Cueto's eight inning gem on Saturday night, since the Cincinnati Reds ace shut down the Colorado Rockies in a park that usually lays waste to pitching, and he did so after having been told by teammate Michael Lorenzen that he'd been traded with just a few warm-up pitches left before his start.
The deal, however, fell through.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sources indicate that the problem was that one of the players going from the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Royals?src=hash">#Royals</a> to the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Reds?src=hash">#Reds</a> for Cueto did not check out medically.</p>— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) <a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/625140327515574272">July 26, 2015</a></blockquote>
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While it's pretty clear that the reigning American League champions still have serious interest in acquiring the reigning NL Cy Young Award runner-up, what's not so clear is which of their prospects have medical issues serious enough to scare away Walt Jocketty & Co. Could it have been Sean Manaea, the Royals' 1st round pick from the 2013 draft who has battled abdominal strain issues for parts of 2015? Potentially Bubba Starling, the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft who has fought hamstring issues this season?
Or is there any chance it was Kyle Zimmer, the 5th pick of the 2012 1st round, a hard throwing RHP widely considered the best pitching prospect in the Royals system who has a surgically repaired right shoulder that has dogged him for years?
Two things in this murky, awkward situation are quite clear among all these questions. First, the Royals have serious interest in acquiring a proven ace to add to their underwhelming - and injury plagued - starting pitching core, and second, the Royals have a bevy of prospects in their rich system that could make for a quite nice haul should the two teams finally agree on a deal.
As for Cueto, it's never fun to hear anything important from anywhere other than the source, and it's pretty embarrassing that it took Lorenzen heading to the pen to get warm and potentially make the start for Cueto to get wind that his days with the Reds may be over. You'd think a guy like that, one who has provided some of the most electric performances of any Reds pitcher most of us have ever seen, would be someone the front office could loop in personally to any decision of that magnitude.
Cueto - gamer that he is - responded exactly the way anyone who's followed him would expect: he turned the opposing team to mince meat. Heck, maybe it was a good enough performance to warrant the Reds asking for more than the deal they nearly had completed.