Jul 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The fans will grow to want him too
Cueto is entertaining, perhaps on a level that doesn’t exist in starting pitching today. He’s not that blank-expression, emotionless pitching machine-esque Rick Porcello, but he’s not the bizarre motions and outlandish antics of Jonathan Papelbon either. He’s enthusiastic in a passionate way. He roars on the mound almost all the time, at himself when he’s pitching poorly, at the umpire when he’s umpiring poorly and at the opponent’s bats when he sends them to the dugout by way of the K.
Cueto is just cool. He’s got awesome dreadlocks. Indeed, dreadlocks done right. Take note, Hanley Ramirez, as Cueto’s dreads are long, brilliant, perfectly formed and yet manage to stay the entire game inside the hat which comes as part of the uniform.
Cueto has amazing form that makes the swings and misses all the sweeter. His pitching mechanics have so many changes that Jeff Passon named them all in an article entitled “Johnny Cueto: The Pitcher so frustrating he makes hitters want to punch strangers”. There’s the traditional, the Tiant, the rocking chair and the quick pitch.
The traditional is as you see – a standard delivery with a slight leg left before flowing into a small after-kick. The most famous of his deliveries and indeed, his most used, is the Tiant. Such named after Luis Tiant, whom he modeled it after; it starts with Cueto turning so his back is to the batter, before uncoiling back to deliver with enhanced speed and movement. It’s a sight to behold. Then there’s the rocking chair, it’s like the Tiant only longer, Cueto holds the turn for an extra second, all but to the point of balk before unleashing the pitch. Finally the quick pitch, in which much to his opponent’s amazement, Cueto simply throws the pitch without any additional delivery.
Bottom line is that Cueto is one of the most entertaining pitchers in baseball today. More than that even. More like enigmatic. He has the flare, the presence and the stuff to be everything an ace should be. Intimidating on the mound as much as dominating. The Fenway faithful would doubtless find him a delight to watch and this should enhance his game as well.
You see one pattern emerged quite clearly from Cueto’s struggles with Kansas City; he fed off the cheers from the home games far more than the jeers when out of town. With Boston’s strong support both home and away, Cueto would be more easily settled into his grove and that grove is the funkiest in all of baseball.
In the end though, after spending some time walking with the elite, as Dombrowski is wont to do, we aren’t any further on in knowing how he will tackle the situation of finding an ace for the Red Sox. Every option, be it free agency or trade, is on the table and Dombrowski is likely to kick many tires before the hot stove has burned itself out. One thing is for certain though, he wants an ace, a leader of the pack to guide the younger players like Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly, and bring Boston back to contention again. Johnny Cueto may not be the ace he chooses in the end, but make no mistake, he can be.