Reds Opening Day starter Johnny Cueto threw 50 pitches in three innings for Class-A Dayton on Thursday and should be ready to make his next rehab start on his regular four-day rest.

“I know the team needs me,” Cueto said through interpreter Thomas Vera on Thursday after giving up a run on four hits and striking out four Lansing Lugnuts. “And I miss them.”

Cueto threw a total of 50 pitches with 37 strikes. He was scheduled to throw a maximum of 60 pitches, but the three innings took more than an hour-and-a-half thanks to a five-run bottom of the first for the Dragons and an on-field ceremony that delayed the start of the third inning.

“It was great to see him out there, healthy,” Reds assistant pitching coach Mack Jenkins said. “He endured some long half-innings, with the hitting or the ceremonies in between. He had no problem getting lose. It was good, his command was better than expected for the number of days off he had.”

Cueto has been on the disabled list since April 15 with a strained right lat. He was scheduled to go on a rehab assignment last week, but he had soreness in his oblique, causing him to bump a start in Pensacola. After going three innings and 50 pitches on Thursday, he should be ready for a five-inning, 80-pitch outing next Tuesday, Jenkins said. Dayton will be at home on Tuesday, so it’s likely he could return here. The Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos are also at home that night. Louisville will be on the road. That would make the earliest he could return to the Reds’ rotation would be April 19, though that’s still at least two steps ahead of where he is after one start.

“I don’t control that, I don’t want they want,” Cueto said through Veras. “They’ll decide what kind of routine I’m going to have next time.”

Cueto’s first pitch was a strike, a relief after not pitching since April 13 in Pittsburgh. He gave up a triple and a run in the first after Lansing left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. hit a liner to center. Dayton center fielder Beau Amaral dove for the ball and it got by him, going to the wall in right. Smith scored when the next batter, Christian Lopes, grounded out to second. Cueto’s top fastball was 92 mph in the first inning, but he ratcheted up the velocity in each of the next two innings, as his last pitch was a 94 mph fastball to strike out Lansing’s Carlos Ramirez. He threw at least four pitches in the third that registered 94 mph on the stadium gun, including that, his final pitch of the outing.

“At the end, I felt like I needed to put a little more into it,” Cueto said through Veras. “I was feeling good and I thought this was the time, I wanted to throw harder to make sure I could.”