Nolasco, who starred in 2008, struggled so much last year that he was demoted to Triple-A at one point. He worked back into shape, though, and finished the season with an 11-4 mark and a 3.82 over his final 22 starts. He set a franchise record with 9.49 strikeouts per nine innings last season, and he's trying to iron out some of the erratic swings in his performance.
Cueto had much the same experience last year, but with a trip to the disabled list instead of the Minors. Even so, the right-hander ranked second on the Reds in wins (11), innings pitched (171) and strikeouts. He spun 14 quality starts last year, including two streaks of five quality starts in a row. In between, however, he went 0-6 with a 10.64 ERA.
The Marlins may not be thinking much about the pitching matchup, though, preferring instead to dwell on a few of their early-season weaknesses. Florida has made 10 errors in its first six games but still owns a 4-2 record. Manager Fredi Gonzalez takes the defensive lapses seriously and wants to see his team improve in short order.
"You see the work that we've done, and there have been improvements," Gonzalez said. "We need to tighten that up a little bit."
Right fielder Cody Ross, normally one of the team's most distinguished gloves, made an error in Sunday's game that led to an unearned run. Ross, true to form, said that he could use the rare defensive lapse as motivation.
"The way I look at it is, any time you don't do it on defense, you want to do it at the plate," Ross said. "Any time you don't do it at the plate, you want to do it on defense. That's kind of how you -- as a player -- want to get back."
Reds: Marlins not to be taken lightly
Manager Dusty Baker is relatively pleased with the way his team has come out of the gate, but he couldn't help but issue a warning to his team through the media on Sunday. The Reds went 3-3 against the Marlins last season despite outscoring them by a 25-13 margin, and Baker wants to make sure his team doesn't take its opponent for granted.
"Four days in Florida is no joke. They've got a good team," Baker said. "We need to remind ourselves that this is a business trip. There are a lot of distractions in Florida. They've got the pool, the beach right outside our hotel. Got to keep our focus."
Baker's rotation will put the business end forward in Florida, with the four most experienced starters taking the ball. Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Aaron Harang will follow Cueto, giving the Reds some stability. Rookie Mike Leake, who made his Major League debut on Sunday, will start next Friday's series opener against Pittsburgh.
Marlins: Infield setting offensive standard
The Marlins may best be known for having a pitching staff packed with power arms, but they also have a fairly accomplished middle-infield combination. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla have logged 562 games as a double-play tandem since 2006. Only two pair -- the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins/Chase Utley (761) and the Yankees' Derek Jeter/Robinson Cano (660) -- have played together more.
And Ramirez and Uggla aren't just playing, they're setting the offensive standard. The two have combined for 225 home runs since 2006, the most of any middle-infield combo. Uggla, who has 122 home runs, is tied with Gary Sheffield for fourth on the team's all-time list, behind Derrek Lee (129), Miguel Cabrera (138) and Mike Lowell (143).
Florida's Jorge Cantu has at least one hit and one RBI in all of the Marlins' games so far, and he's one game away from tying Cliff Floyd for the team record in that category. ... Leake became the first Reds pitcher to get two hits in his Major League debut since Benny Frey did it in September 1929. Leake -- who was also just the 21st player in the Draft era to skip the Minors and make his pro debut in the Majors -- sent his cap to the Hall of Fame. ... Florida's Anibal Sanchez broke a two-year drought on Sunday, when he lined his first hit since April 27, 2007. ... Wes Helms set Florida's career record for pinch-hits (45) early last week.
Mon, 4/12 7:10 PM ET
Rolen rocks, Reds take opener from Marlins
Two young fireballers -- Johnny Cueto and Ricky Nolasco -- headlined, but it was the veteran bat of Scott Rolen that made the difference, as the third baseman belted two homers and the game-winning hit.
|Cabrera, O, SS||5||1||1||2||0||0||0||.207|
|Phillips, B, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.185|
|Nix, L, LF||2||0||1||1||1||0||1||.286|
|b-Gomes, J, PH-LF||2||0||0||0||0||1||3||.125|
|Hernandez, Ra, C||4||0||1||0||0||0||4||.286|
|Ramirez, H, SS||4||1||2||0||1||0||1||.360|
|Baker, Jo, C||3||0||1||0||0||0||2||.333|
|b-Paulino, R, PH-C||2||0||1||1||0||1||3||.313|
|Ross, C, RF||5||0||2||0||0||0||6||.276|
|Sanchez, G, 1B||5||0||0||0||0||2||4||.250|
2B: Bruce (1, Nolasco).
HR: Rolen 2 (3, 2nd inning off Nolasco, 0 on, 1 out; 4th inning off Nolasco, 0 on, 0 out), Cabrera, O (2, 5th inning off Nolasco, 1 on, 0 out).
TB: Stubbs; Cabrera, O 4; Votto; Phillips, B; Rolen 9; Bruce 3; Nix, L; Hernandez, Ra.
RBI: Rolen 3 (4), Nix, L (1), Cabrera, O 2 (6).
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Phillips, B; Hernandez, Ra.
SAC: Phillips, B.
Team RISP: 2-for-7.
Team LOB: 7.
SB: Votto (1, 2nd base off Nolasco/Baker, Jo).
CS: Nix, L (1, home by Nolasco/Baker, Jo).
DP: (Rolen-Phillips, B-Votto).
2B: Ramirez, H (2, Cueto), Cantu (5, Cueto), Uggla 2 (2, Cueto, Cueto).
TB: Maybin 2; Ramirez, H 3; Cantu 2; Uggla 6; Baker, Jo; Paulino, R; Ross, C 2.
RBI: Cantu 2 (12), Uggla (3), Paulino, R (4).
2-out RBI: Paulino, R.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Cantu; Nolasco; Sanchez, G; Ross, C 4.
GIDP: Sanchez, G.
Team RISP: 5-for-15.
Team LOB: 11.
E: Cantu (1, throw).
DP: (Baker, Jo-Ramirez, H-Baker, Jo).
Meyer pitched to 1 batter in the 8th.
HBP: Uggla (by Cueto).
Pitches-strikes: Cueto 110-70, Lincoln 37-23, Herrera 3-2, Ondrusek 14-11, Masset 32-18, Cordero 15-10, Nolasco 92-62, Wood 12-9, Meyer 6-2, Hensley 6-4, Oviedo 11-8, Badenhop 21-12.
Groundouts-flyouts: Cueto 9-1, Lincoln 3-0, Herrera 0-0, Ondrusek 3-1, Masset 1-0, Cordero 1-2, Nolasco 6-5, Wood 1-1, Meyer 0-0, Hensley 1-0, Oviedo 0-1, Badenhop 1-0.
Batters faced: Cueto 25, Lincoln 7, Herrera 1, Ondrusek 4, Masset 6, Cordero 3, Nolasco 27, Wood 5, Meyer 1, Hensley 2, Oviedo 3, Badenhop 5.
Inherited runners-scored: Herrera 2-1, Ondrusek 2-0, Meyer 1-0, Hensley 2-0.
Umpires: HP: CB Bucknor. 1B: Jeff Kellogg. 2B: Larry Vanover. 3B: Mark Carlson.
Weather: 72 degrees, cloudy.
Wind: 6 mph, In from RF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media