In 24 starts during 2011, Cueto is 9-5 with a 2.31 ERA, 47 walks, 104 strikeouts and only eight home runs. He has 156 innings pitched, which means he will not qualify for the National League ERA title.
Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw is just ahead with a 2.30 ERA. Cueto missed the first five weeks of the season because of irritation in his right biceps and triceps muscles, which obviously cost him some innings.
But as other members of the rotation faltered, the 25-year-old Cueto showed he was immediately ready to step up. He pitched like a No. 1 starter and made another big step forward in his progress.
"I was probably most proud of him and our training and fitness staff on how we really needed but chose to wait until he was right to come back," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He came back big time ready, which shows the kind of training regimen he was doing, more or less on his own. Now Johnny Cueto is a runner, which was what I talked to him about all the guys in my past. And the importance of hard work."
Cueto is frequently running on stadium steps and outfield grass, something he began in 2010 when he was 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA. Eligible for arbitration after that season, he signed a four-year, $27 million contract.
"The organization took some chance in signing him to a multi-year contract," Baker said. "You always take a chance. He proved his worth. He earned his money. He's going to get better and better.
"Hopefully next year he can be a 200 innings guy. It's a good feeling when you have Johnny Cueto every fifth day. The team feels confident. I can manage a little differently the day before knowing he's going to go deep in games and I probably won't use my bullpen. That's huge."
Cueto held out the possibility he would pitch in winter ball over the off-season in the Dominican Republic.
"Maybe. I would maybe throw 20-25 innings," Cueto said.