CINCINNATI -- The Reds revealed on Tuesday that Johnny Cueto has been diagnosed with a mild right oblique strain. Manager Dusty Baker ruled him out for a Game 4 start after Tuesday night's 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Giants, and his availability for the remainder of the National League Division Series, or for the remainder of the playoffs, is uncertain.
Tuesday's Game 3 may have grown in importance to Cincinnati given the injury to its ace starting pitcher, which could result in his being unavailable for the NL Championship Series. Baker revealed he will start either Mat Latos or Mike Leake in Wednesday's Game 4. If he goes with Leake, he will replace Cueto on the postseason roster, and Cueto would be ineligible for the NLCS, should the Reds advance.
"We're trying not to," Baker said of replacing Cueto. "We're seeing if we can avoid doing that. He wouldn't be available the next series. But if it's unavoidable, then that's something different. We're weighing our options."
Cueto was originally diagnosed with back spasms after he exited Game 1 only eight pitches into his start at San Francisco on Saturday. Normally for pitchers, oblique injuries are on the non-throwing side, from where they get their power. Since Cueto is right-handed, that would usually mean a left oblique injury. But Cueto has a funky delivery during which he twists away from the plate.
"That's why when it first happened, we were trying to figure out what was going on, because it didn't make sense to be a same-side oblique," Reds head trainer Paul Lessard said.
Cueto, who was 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA in 33 regular-season starts without an injury, is undergoing treatment to try to be able to pitch.
"We're still throwing the kitchen sink at him right now," Lessard said.
"They said he's getting better, but we don't know what better is," Baker said. "That's a volatile area. You've seen the obliques, sometimes they hang around for a while, and sometimes they don't hang around for a while. We don't know the severity of it. He came in [Monday] and got treatment all day long, so right now I would just be guessing to let you know how he is exactly right now. In a nutshell, we don't know. "
If Latos starts Game 4, he would be returning on three days' rest. Latos worked four innings after Sam LeCure immediately replaced Cueto in Game 1.
Leake, who is not on the Division Series roster, has been preparing since the regular season ended for this type of contingency.
"He'd be the one," Baker said before Tuesday's game.
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.