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04/03/08 1:10 AM ET

Cueto set to take center stage

Cincinnati (1-1) vs. Arizona (1-1), 12:35 p.m. ET

Johnny Cueto, your big stage awaits you.

Cueto will make his Major League debut on Thursday afternoon when he's the starting pitcher against the Diamondbacks. The 22-year-old right-hander was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training and earned himself a rotation spot by providing some of the most dynamic performances of camp.

Reds manager Dusty Baker was asked if he plans to speak with or counsel Cueto about his inaugural big league moment.

"No, he has enough people talking to him," Baker said. "We have [pitching coach] Dickie [Pole], Mario [Soto] and [Francisco] Cordero. Right now, I just want him to be natural and pretend it's the same game -- which it is, no matter what level you're playing at."

Cueto will be opposed by Arizona lefty Doug Davis. After they split the first two games of the series, the Reds will try to win it in the rubber game.

In six games, including four starts, during Spring Training, Cueto posted a 5.09 ERA. But he had a 2.08 ERA through the first four games before seven of the 10 earned runs were allowed during his final two outings. The right-hander walked 12 and struck out 19, while opposing batters hit .239.

Not only did he impress his own team, Cueto had opposing hitters and scouts buzzing about his stuff.

Nevertheless, this will be a big jump. At this time last year, Cueto was pitching with Class A Sarasota in the Florida State League.

"I don't think he'll be any different, especially if we get him through the early innings," Baker said. "You get him throwing strikes early, it'll be no problem."

Soto, the former Reds pitcher who's currently an instructor, came north with the team to help mentor fellow Dominicans Cueto and Edinson Volquez. But Soto's stay is only temporary.

"Mario has stuff to do," Baker said. "You have to leave the nest sometime."

Pitching matchup
CIN: RHP Johnny Cueto (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Combined at Sarasota, Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, Cueto was 12-9 with a 3.07 ERA in 161 1/3 innings. He was the 2006 and 2007 Reds' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. After he wore No. 77 during camp, the Reds have issued Cueto No. 47. The Reds are 35-37 all-time vs. Arizona.

ARI: LHP Doug Davis (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Davis was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last week and will make his first two starts of the season before undergoing surgery April 10. The left-hander has plenty of experience against the Reds from his days with the Brewers. He is 6-2 with a 3.40 ERA in 14 career games against them.

Short hops
Baker plans to have Scott Hatteberg start at first base over rookie Joey Votto on Thursday. Both are lefty hitters, but Baker said Hatteberg has had better success against lefties during the spring. Cueto will be the first Reds player to make his big league debut this season. In 2007, there were five players that had their Major League debuts with the team.

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On the Internet
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On radio
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Up next
• Friday: Reds (Josh Fogg, 0-0, -.--) vs. Phillies (Kyle Kendrick, 0-0, -.--), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Reds (Aaron Harang, 0-1, 3.00) vs. Phillies (Adam Eaton, 0-0, -.--), 1:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Reds (Edinson Volquez, 0-0, -.--) vs. Phillies (Brett Myers, 0-0, 5.40), 1:15 p.m. ET

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.