DENVER -- Even before the Reds' 17-7 loss to the Rockies, Sunday was already shaping up to be a tough day at the ballpark. A little over an hour before first pitch, Cincinnati traded ace Johnny Cueto.
In the organization since 2004, and a fixture on the big league pitching staff since 2008, Cueto was sent to the Royals for left-handed pitching prospects Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. While a trade has been expected for months, it was still hard for teammates to bid Cueto farewell.
"Shocking is not the word, but it's kind of a blah feeling," right fielder Jay Bruce said. "Because everybody anticipated it happening, but for it to actually happen and someone I've personally known for 11 years now, just poof, gone. I understand it's part of the business and the organization felt it was the best move it could make. I wish Johnny the best and I'm fairly certain he will succeed wherever he is."
Manager Bryan Price first started working with Cueto in 2010, when he became Cincinnati's pitching coach.
"We hate to see him go. We know it's part of what we need to do to get better, get some younger, more affordable players into our mix. We've got three left-handed pitchers we think will be impact guys in our future," Price said. "It's part of the business. It's not easy for anybody. It's not easy for the team to lose a 20-game winner. It's not easy for these guys to lose a friend, a great teammate. It's hard for a staff that has worked with him to say goodbye."
The past two days were tumultuous as Cueto trade speculation intensified. Prior to Saturday night's game, Price and general manager Walt Jocketty met for over an hour in Price's office along with head trainer Paul Lessard.
Cueto made his start on Saturday, as scheduled, and pitched eight scoreless innings for a 5-2 win over the Rockies. However, he was upset after the game because he said he was told by pitcher Michael Lorenzen that he was traded. Lorenzen, who was the Reds' starter against Colorado on Sunday, was playing catch near Cueto.
Price denied that Lorenzen was being prepared to pitch in place of Cueto on Saturday. Rumors that he would be dealt to Kansas City continued into Sunday morning before the trade was finalized and made official.
"Very tough," catcher Brayan Pena said. "It's not just he was my teammate, but I'm going to be the godfather for his son this offseason. Him and I have a pretty good relationship - on and off the field.
We knew this moment was coming but you never know how much it hurt until you say GOOD BYE to one of my best friend ���� pic.twitter.com/Z5QMwrZL7w
This may not be the last teammate the Reds will see depart in the coming week. The non-waiver Trade Deadline is 4 p.m. ET Friday. Bruce, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman and others could be moved.
"I've played with most of these guys for four years now," Frazier said. "It's a long time. You get to know their families, their friends and all that stuff and go out. That's the way this business is. It's a very tough business. It's tough to get close to some people."
Cincinnati will need a starter to replace Cueto on Thursday when a four-game series opens vs. the Pirates at Great American Ball Park. Before he was traded, Price talked about the fluidity of the situation for a team.
"Nobody wants to talk about this stuff," Price said. "It's kind of the sick underbelly of the trade deadline, especially when you're in that last week. We have to prepare for worst case scenarios, and that could be moving a player, moving a starting pitcher the day of or the day before they're going to start. It's unfortunate we even have to discuss it. It's painful because we respect and we love our guys. It's the reality of our environment and we have to do the best we can to manage it."