A reserved Johnny Cueto says he is ready for Game 5

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Nobody would confuse Kansas City Royals pitcher Johnny Cueto with somebody who is shy, but he gave that impression with his business-like approach Tuesday.

A day before he takes the mound for the Royals in a deciding Game 5 of the American League Division Series, Cueto had little to say in advance of one of the biggest starts of his career.

Not only could a well-pitched game propel the Royals into the American League Championship Series, it also could be a boon to the right-hander, who is headed into free agency in the offseason.

All those implications seem to be the reason Cueto was reserved during a news conference.

How will he handle Houston Astros' red-hot cleanup man Colby Rasmus?

"I've obviously got a plan for him and we'll find out tomorrow," Cueto said through an interpreter.

How far can this game go toward showing people what he is about?

"Obviously this is the deciding game, you either win and stay, or you go home," he said. "And I'm ready for the opportunity, and I'm going to go get 'em."

It's not hard to see why Cueto wouldn't want to give away too much of his strategy or thoughts heading into an elimination game. But it is clear why people would want to know.

Cueto hasn't quite been the guy the Royals thought they were getting when he was acquired in July from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for three left-handers: Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed.

The Royals took the significant gamble on a rental starter since starter Yordano Ventura had not yet turned around his season and Jason Vargas was lost for the season because of an injury.

Cueto went 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the Royals in the second half, and in Game 2 of the ALDS he gave up four runs and seven hits over six innings, falling short of a quality start.

With one outing, though, Cueto can go a long way toward showing the trade was worth it.

Since it is a clincher, Cueto won't have much time to settle into the game. At the first sign of trouble, he'll end up a spectator on the dugout bench.

"If the quality of stuff is good, then you're going to stay with [the starter] longer," manager Ned Yost said. "If it's not, then you start getting a little bit of an antsy feeling and you probably go to the bullpen quicker than you normally would, especially in a Game 5. We're going to have just about all hands on deck out there."

Cueto knows what is at stake both personally and for the team.

"I'm not going to lie, at times it's been very difficult to take [pending free agency] out of my mind, but the fact of the matter is I've got to focus on pitching here and performing for this club and this organization," he said. "Thank God the most important thing is that I feel good, healthy, and that gives me an opportunity to have success."