CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Johnny Cueto's bad back left the Cincinnati Reds unsure who would start Game 4 if their playoff against the San Francisco Giants goes that far.
The Reds' 19-game winner had to leave the first inning of the divisional series opener Saturday because of back spasms. Mat Latos and the bullpen took over and pulled off a 5-2 win.
The Reds took the first two games in San Francisco, leaving them one win from advancing to the NL championship series. They got their first chance to do it Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park, with Homer Bailey going against Ryan Vogelsong.
If San Francisco wins, manager Dusty Baker will have another difficult choice. He said Tuesday it was unclear whether Cueto would be able to throw.
If Cueto is hurt, the Reds have a few options. They could replace him on the division series roster with right-hander Mike Leake, who was left off. That would leave Cueto unavailable to pitch during the league championship series if the Reds make it that far.
"We're seeing if we can avoid it because he wouldn't be available the next series," Baker said. "But if it's unavoidable, that's something different. We're weighing our options right now."
The other option is to lean on the bullpen again. They could bring Latos back on short rest again, though that's not an appealing alternative.
Baker planned to meet with Cueto, team trainers, general manager Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Bryan Price to make a decision later in the day.
"We've got to talk about it, see how Johnny is," Baker said. "A lot of guys would be on less than full rest (if they use the bullpen for Game 4). We hope we don't have to talk about it at all. But you know it's going to be a tough game today. You're taking the last breath out of somebody."