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Recurrence of Johnny Cueto's lat injury adds to Reds' mounting woes

Johnny Cueto's injury struggles continued on Friday, as he had to leave his start in the second inning. [AP]Johnny Cueto's injury struggles continued on Friday, as he had to leave his start in the second inning. [AP]

Johnny Cueto lasted just four pitches into the second inning of his start in Texas on Friday night after re-injuring the latisimus dorsi muscle that has sent him to the disabled list twice already this season. The Reds haven't made any announcements yet, but it's reasonable to expect that Cueto, who could be seen shouting in pain after his final pitch, will head back to the DL for a third time. This latest occurrence of Cueto's lat injury comes with the Reds sinking in the standings, slipping into third place a week ago and losing six of their last seven games, including Friday night's 4-0 loss to the Rangers.

The good news for Cincinnati is that Cueto's replacement in the rotation is rookie Tony Cingrani, who took over for Cueto vs. Texas and has thus far made seven starts in his stead this season. Cingrani has actually out-pitched Cueto on the season (3.12 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 4.91 K/BB to Cueto's 3.21, 1.05, 2.86 in a similar number of innings) and, coming off a season in which he threw 146 minor-league innings, should be able to pitch as much as the Reds need him to going forward this year.

Indeed, the Reds' biggest problem at the moment is not their pitching but, as my battery-mate Jay Jaffe detailed Thursday, their hitting. Unable to pick up their fragile ace, the Reds were shut out by Texas rookie Martin Perez and two relievers, dropping their rate of runs scored on the month to 3.4 per game.

By way of comparison, only the Marlins have failed to score more often on the season as a whole. Swapping out an injured Cueto for Cingrani doesn't necessarily deepen those woes, necessarily, but it's worth remembering that, as a pitcher who posted a 2.58 ERA over the last two seasons combined, Cueto was a pitcher who could win with such feeble run support. Cueto has shown similar form when healthy this season, going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his first seven starts. The fact that he was hit hard in his last start against the Diamondbacks and had a rocky first inning Friday night suggests he had been attempting to pitch through the injury. If so, the Reds will have to be extra careful about how soon they bring him back this time.

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