JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Skip Schumaker was a Cardinals player 13 years ago when a brawl broke out and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kicked St. Louis backup catcher Jason Larue on the head, causing a career-ending concussion.
Now Schumaker is Miami’s first-year manager and Cueto is on his pitching staff.
“That was a long time ago,” Schumaker said. “We’ve talked, and those fights get nasty. You just never know what’s going to happen in one of those fights. He’s a good guy. You get caught up in the moment, and stuff like that happens in those bench-clearing brawls.”
Cueto had been pinned against the screen behind home plate and had been trying to break loose during the brawl that began when Phillips and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina went nose-to-nose at home plate. Cueto was suspended for seven games.
“It was a big rivalry,” Schumaker said. “Actually, it was a lot of fun till that part happened.”
Cueto, a 37-year-old right-hander is 143-107 in 15 big league seasons, winning 19 games for Cincinnati in 2012 and 20 in 2014, then 18 for San Francisco in 2016.
He pitched last year for the Chicago White Sox under Tony La Russa, the former Cardinals skipper.
“A very respected manager.” Cueto said through a translator. “It was a good experience, an honor, for me”
Cueto has made a pair of spring training starts, both against St. Louis. After the latest in the Cardinals’ 8-3 win Friday, he has allowed 11 runs in 4 1/3 innings — including two home runs. Under liberalized spring training rules, he was pulled from the game in the first inning, returned to the mound in the second and removed again during the third.
“That’s a first time for me,” Schumaker said. “I wasn’t planning on doing that entering the day. But the last thing I want to do is have him throw 40 pitches in the first inning. ‘Up-downs’ are important to get used to.”
Cueto experimented with calling some pitches himself through his own PitchCom device.
“It was a little bit uncomfortable,” he said.
Added Schumaker: “He doesn’t know what the buttons are yet. He’s still playing with it. A couple of times he shook himself (off) because that’s not what he wanted. It doesn’t say what it’s on there. So you have to know exactly what to do.”
Cueto is slated to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
“I’m not landing where I want. I’m opening up (with his shoulder). The ball was not hitting the precise location,” Cueto said. “It’s a matter of working out those little details in the spring but, of course, I also get upset when I see these types of results. I don’t want to look bad in front of my teammates.”
“It will be a little different during the Classic,” he added. “They will be late-night games. The adrenaline will be there.”