Giants

Cueto, Hundley go into offseason with different decisions to make

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Cueto, Hundley go into offseason with different decisions to make

SAN FRANCISCO — Johnny Cueto smiled Sunday afternoon when asked about his future. Will he be a Giant next year?

“I don’t know. Maybe,” he said. “I’m sure I will.”

That’s been a good bet for several months, and Sunday did nothing to change the math. Cueto gave up 12 hits and four runs over five innings of his final start, and he finished the season with a 4.52 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. It was by just about any measure the worst season of Cueto’s career, and it included constant battles with blisters as well as a flexor tendon scare. 

After a season like that, it’s just about impossible to imagine a 31-year-old pitcher opting out of the final four years and $84 million of his deal. That money won’t be waiting on the market. So, why didn’t Cueto inform the Giants of his decision before leaving town? Perhaps it’s because he’s hoping he still has some leverage. 

Cueto said his agent, Bryce Dixon, would talk to general manager Bobby Evans. The Giants believe he would like to negotiate in some respect, whether that’s adding something to the deal or perhaps discussing the 2022 club option that costs $22 million. A team source said Sunday that the front office is not inclined to change any of the language of Cueto’s current deal. They want him to make a decision based on the deal he signed, and push comes to shove, you can bet Cueto will be back.

“Of course I would like to be back,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I feel like we have a winning team.”

Nick Hundley feels the same way, and he’ll have a different type of decision to make. The veteran signed a $2 million deal in January to back up Buster Posey and ended up playing in 101 games. He hit nine homers and 23 doubles, earned praise from the pitching staff, and won the Willie Mac Award. 

“I love it here,” Hundley said. “I love these guys. Playing with these guys has been a pleasure every day. It’s a wonderful place to live and play, and the opportunity to win the World Series here is as great as in any place in the league. If everything works out, I’d love to be back.”

Hundley, 34, said the decision will be one made by his family. He has young kids and said he wants them to be comfortable. Asked about playing time and the possibility that he would get offered a starting job elsewhere, Hundley said he’ll deal with that decision when the time comes. 

“There are a lot of factors that go into it,” he said. “There are a lot of unknowns.”

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

PHOENIX — After his team was held to fewer than two runs for the 10th time this season, manager Bruce Bochy said Mac Williamson will be in Anaheim on Friday as part of the taxi squad. The Giants need the outfielder to be more of a tow truck. 

This is a lineup that has not gotten in gear in any way, but a red-hot reinforcement is on the way. Williamson was hitting .487 with six homers in 11 games in Triple-A, and while Bochy couldn’t say he’ll be active and in left field against the Angels, it was not hard to read between the lines. Hunter Pence said the thumb he sprained in the home opener continues to give him problems and needs a few days of rest. It seems likely that Williamson will officially be called up Friday, with Pence going on the disabled list. 

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Bochy said. “Mostly he’s coming up because he’s swinging the bat well. We’re hoping he’ll be a shot in the arm and provide some production, and we need some help in that area.”

The futility has the Giants six games out of first after just three weeks of action. The culprit is clear. Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach combined to give up three runs over 20 innings in a tough ballpark, but the Giants still dropped two of three. 

They need more than just one offensive fix, but Williamson represents a start. The 27-year-old has never stuck in the majors, but he rebuilt his swing in the offseason while working with Doug Latta, a private instructor in the Los Angeles area who helped Justin Turner became a star. Williamson’s swing has many of the same markers as Turner’s, and he had a huge spring as he continued to work on adjustments. Williamson lowered his hands and added a higher leg kick in hopes of keeping his bat in the zone longer and being shorter and more direct to the ball. 

“In the past I’ve been really active with my shoulders and hands late in the swing instead of just going and attacking the ball,” he said this spring. “I’m trying to just really calm down a lot of that non-essential movement.”

Williamson knew there was not a spot for him on the opening day roster, but hoped to make an impact sooner than later. His torrid start, plus the struggles at the big league level, have made this a daily question. 

“He showed this spring with the adjustments he made that he’s primed,” Bochy said. “He went out and did what we were hoping.”

The key for the Giants now will be to show more faith than they have in the past. Williamson is a .226 hitter in the big leagues, but his 212 at-bats have been scattered across three seasons and plenty of call-ups. It seems he is always one 0 for 3 night away from a demotion, but the Giants would be well served to let him work through any kinks this time. 

The incumbent in left field, Pence, is batting .172. His backups — Gorkys Hernandez and Gregor Blanco — are better fits as defense-first reserves. Pence hurt his thumb while diving in left field during the home opener and said it has never gotten better. An MRI back then showed a sprain. 

“It’s been going in a backwards direction,” he said. 

So have the Giants, but perhaps help is finally on the way.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.