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 Great start for Reds

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PostSubject: Great start for Reds   Fri Apr 04, 2008 6:51 am

Game of the day: Reds 3, Diamondbacks 2
Cueto fans 10 in Reds debut

22-year-old overpowers Diamondbacks, allowing just Upton's solo home run over seven innings.
Detroit News wire services
CINCINNATI -- While Johnny Cueto blew away batters with a 96 mph fastball, his Cincinnati Reds teammates compared memories about the last time they'd seen anyone so young look so good the first time out.

The consensus: This was something special.

Cueto allowed nothing more than Justin Upton's solo homer in seven innings Thursday, striking out 10 in an overpowering debut while leading the Reds to a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In modern baseball history -- since 1900, that is -- no Reds pitcher had fanned 10 batters in his big league debut.

Special indeed.

"The guys on the bench were saying they haven't seen anything like this in a long time," manager Dusty Baker said. "I guess it's something they've never seen, and there's a lot they still haven't seen from this young man."

To a man, the Diamondbacks have seen enough.

Cueto, a 22-year-old right-hander, threw his fastball right past batters who had never seen it, finishing them off with a hard slider or a swing-teasing change-up. He struck out eight of his first 13 batters.

It reminded Baker of how Fernando Valenzuela became an overnight sensation with the Dodgers in the 1980s.

"He knows what he wants to do," Baker said. "The way he was throwing the ball today has no age."

The only glaring mistake: Upton led off the sixth with a homer. That was the only hit by a team that batted an NL-low .250 last season.

"He was unbelievable two years ago," said Upton, who faced him once in Class A. "He's got great stuff. He pounds the (strike) zone with it. He's just a great pitcher. Obviously he made the team for a reason. He's major league ready."

Arizona's Alex Romero had a sacrifice fly in the eighth, after reliever David Weathers walked the bases loaded. Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his first save since the Reds gave him a four-year, $46 million deal to fix their biggest shortcoming.

Then, Cordero handed Cueto his first big league keepsake.

"My big thing was to get three people out, get the save and hand the ball to him," Cordero said.

Cueto doesn't speak English comfortably, so former Reds pitcher Mario Soto -- now a scouting assistant and spring training instructor -- provided translation. Most of Cueto's answers were short and to the point, just like his performance.

His feelings when he took the mound for the first time?

"Very confident," Soto said. "Throw seven shutout innings. That's what he had in mind."

Brandon Phillips doubled home a run for the Reds and Jeff Keppinger homered.
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