#MLBPlayers411: Johnny Cueto finds horsepower on the mound

August 22nd, 2016

Looks can be as deceiving as Johnny Cueto's delivery. Nothing came easy for the dominating Dominican right-hander, who is on his way to another stellar season in his first year with the San Francisco Giants.

On Friday night, he allowed just one earned run over seven innings to win his 14th game and drop his earned-run average to 2.90.

The six-year deal Cueto signed with the Giants during the offseason gave him and his family a level of financial security they couldn't even fathom when he was growing up in the poor but baseball-crazy town of San Pedro de Macoris as the second of five children.

His mother, Maria Christina, sold clothing out of the family's three-bedroom house, and his father made a living renting homes.

Cueto, however, has only known one line of work: playing baseball. His mother encouraged him to focus on the game, even pulling him out of bed in the morning to go work out. She always made sure her son had baseball equipment.

He grew up an outfielder but found it difficult to keep up with the other talented Dominican players as he rose from Little League to higher levels of competition. When Cueto turned 16, a coach advised him to learn to pitch, telling him the only way he would make it in baseball is from the pitcher's mound.

That's when his fortunes began to turn. His coach called a local acquaintance who scouted for the Reds, asking if he would take a look at Cueto as a pitcher. In a stroke of luck, Johnny Almaraz, the Reds' Dominican scouting director at the time, was still on the island but leaving the next day.

Cueto made the trip from San Pedro de Macoris to San Cristobal, throwing no more than 15 pitches for Almaraz at 7:30 a.m. before Almaraz left the island. Yet, that's all Almaraz needed to see. He sent Cueto to the Reds' training academy, where Cueto was signed just a few weeks later.

Four years later, Cueto made his Major League debut on Apr. 3, 2008. He was perfect through five innings, becoming the first pitcher to record 10 strikeouts with no walks in his big league debut.

Cueto, now a two-time All-Star with 100 wins, 241 starts and 1,594 innings over eight-plus seasons in the Majors, doesn't miss being an outfielder, claiming that "pitching is much easier."

But that's just the way he makes it look.


More from #MLBPlayers411:

  • Cueto has a farm in San Pedro de Macoris where he raises horses, dairy and beef cows, goats and chickens.
  • In 2009, Cueto was a member of the Dominican Republic national baseball team.
  • Cueto and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons and a daughter.
  • In 2014, Cueto led the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts, winning 20 games and finishing second in Cy Young Award voting.
  • Cueto's famous dreads have been a work in progress. He has grown them for at least seven years and styles the dreads himself.