Joe Kelly saw how starter Johnny Cueto was progressing at Triple-A Charlotte while the Chicago White Sox reliever was on a rehab assignment.
He gave a positive review.
“Johnny Cueto looked good,” Kelly said last week. “Johnny’s a great dude. He messes up hitters with timing, multiple looks, leg kicks, slide steps. Johnny does it to try to get guys off balance and he’s a master at it. He was commanding all of his pitches for strikes.”
Cueto has joined the Sox in Kansas City and will start Monday’s game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The Sox purchased Cueto’s contract from Charlotte.
The veteran went 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA and 17 strikeouts in four starts with Charlotte after signing with the Sox as a minor-league free agent on April 8.
“The road games were not his forte just because the umpires — I’m not going to say they weren’t ready for Johnny, but when I watched him pitch with the automatic strike zone? Pfft. Good luck. He could dot,” Kelly said. “Some umpires give up on some of the ways his balls move, and they move a ton. So when he’s flipping pitchers and they’re strikes in the strike zone, but the umpire thinks it runs off, that might get him into trouble.
“But these guys up here, big league umpires, they know that. They know Johnny, they know how it moves. He looks great. He’s definitely going to help us this year.”
Cueto, 36, is 135-97 with a 3.45 ERA in 330 appearances (329 starts) during a 14-year career with the Cincinnati Reds (2008-15), Royals (2015) and San Francisco Giants (2016-21).
The right-hander is a two-time All-Star (2014, 2016), finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2014 and is 2-4 with a 4.54 ERA in eight career postseason starts. He made four starts in the 2015 postseason with the World Series champion Royals.
Cueto went 7-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 22 outings (21 starts) in 2021.
In Monday’s corresponding roster move, the Sox optioned infielder Danny Mendick to Charlotte.