GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds ace Johnny Cueto got one final tuneup before he pitches on Opening Day and he was pleased how he felt overall. In a 3-0 loss to the D-backs on Wednesday, Cueto gave up three earned runs and three hits over five innings with two walks, seven strikeouts and a wild pitch.
"I felt really well. I felt really loose. I feel ready," Cueto said via translator Tomas Vera. "Actually, I feel like I'm throwing harder. I surprised myself by how hard I threw because I feel more loose. I feel really ready."
It was Cueto's first Cactus League game since March 16 vs. the Cubs. He missed a start and several days away from camp to be home in the Dominican Republic when his mother underwent open-heart surgery.
After Cueto returned, he pitched a Minor League game vs. Double-A batters in the Dodgers organization on Friday.
Cueto finished with a 3.86 ERA in his four big league games with eight hits, six walks and 13 strikeouts over 14 innings. He allowed two runs, with one earned run and five hits in the Minor League outing.
Against Arizona, Cueto retired eight of his first nine batters, with a two-out, three-base error on right fielder Skip Schumaker in the second inning the only blemish. There was a two-out walk in the scoreless third inning and a leadoff walk to David Peralta that started a rally in the fourth.
A bad force-play throw on Aaron Hill's grounder to shortstop was ruled an infield hit. Jake Lamb followed with a rolling single to right field that loaded the bases before Yasmany Tomas ripped a three-run double to right-center field.
"Other than that, I thought he was pretty sharp," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We got him stretched out where we wanted him to, up over 80 pitches, so it makes it realistic that he can go out there and throw enough pitches to maybe pitch six, seven innings in the opener. That's really our goal for every Spring Training."
Cueto will face the Pirates on Monday at Great American Ball Park.
Price added: "We're not looking for a complete game but an opportunity for our starters to be stretched out enough to pitch deep enough in the game to where we're not killing our bullpen on the front end of the season. I think he's ready to go."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.