Cueto impresses in return to mound

After missing his last start with elbow stiffness, ace tosses six strong innings

Cueto impresses in return to mound

PHILADELPHIA -- The Reds missed out on getting him a victory on Tuesday vs. the Phillies, but they certainly had no complaints about ace Johnny Cueto's return performance from a minor elbow injury.

In his first start since May 19, Cueto threw 93 pitches over six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) with five hits, no walks and four strikeouts. He left with a 4-2 lead before the bullpen gave it up in the eighth inning in a 5-4 loss to the Phillies.

"I feel pretty good," Cueto said.

Cueto missed a turn in the rotation after experiencing right elbow stiffness. An MRI exam cleared him after no structural damage was revealed.

When speaking in Spanish translated by assistant trainer Tomas Vera, Cueto noted that he did not yet feel normal on the mound. But his elbow did not give him any trouble.

"It doesn't feel 100 percent yet, but it's progressing. I'm getting better," Cueto said. "Not really in the elbow situation. Thank God, I feel great. I felt kind of nervous in the beginning because coming from an injury, you don't know what to expect. Overall, I felt really good. It's just about being ready and being back in shape."

Cueto's 20-pitch first inning began dramatically with Billy Hamilton's diving catch in center field that robbed Ben Revere of a leadoff hit. But other than Chase Utley, who had three of the Phillies' hits against him, Cueto encountered rare moments of difficulty.

Hamilton's diving catch

An unearned run scored against Cueto in the second inning and Utley hit a 2-1 pitch into the right-field seats in the sixth.

Utley's solo homer

"Every single pitch I threw today was where I wanted it," Cueto said. "My command was really good. Only one changeup that I threw to Utley, it stayed there and hanged in there, and you know what happened."

Reds manager Bryan Price opted to remove Cueto after the sixth and go with reliever Ryan Mattheus in the seventh. Price felt that Cueto had done enough in his first game back.

"I thought he felt really good. He maintained his velocity. I thought he was sharp," Price said. "You know, I just felt like it seemed to make sense to let him pitch six innings, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 pitches and see how he rebounds from it.

"He doesn't need to be built back up, it's not like he can't go out there and throw a complete game next time out or throw 115, 120 pitches. It'll be nice to see how he rebounds, and we're also on the front end of 20 straight [games]. So, I think he's going to be fine. He looked really good to me."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.