In camp on time, Cueto says Giants have what it takes for title run


In camp on time, Cueto says Giants have what it takes for title run

SCOTTSDALE — A steady stream of familiar faces, offseason acquisitions and prized prospects strolled into Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday morning to take physicals. Few of the men in the room will have a bigger impact on the Giants’ playoff hopes than the man who spent five minutes telling reporters all about the 400 chickens he is raising at his farm. 

Johnny Cueto isn’t just in camp on time this year. He actually arrived early, eager to put a rough 2017 season in his past. A year after Cueto missed much of camp to tend to his ill father, he was one of the first players to actually take the field in Arizona, joining Nick Hundley for a light game of catch in the afternoon. 

Cueto went 8-8 with a 4.52 ERA last season while dealing with arm discomfort and persistent blisters. At the beginning of November, he decided not to opt out of a six-year, $130 million contract he signed in December of 2015. The Giants will have Cueto for at least four more years, and on the first day of his third season, with the help of interpreter Erwin Higueros, he spoke about a wide range of topics.

Were you playing catch up all of last year after missing the spring?
JC: It was a difficult year. I tried to find myself but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do it, but that was last year and this is a new year.

On the decision to not opt out:
JC: I never thought about opting out. My intention was to stay with the Giants, but having a bad year made the decision easy. Even if I would have had a good year, I would have stayed. I like the team, I like my teammates and the training staff is great. That’s part of the reason I wanted to stay.

Did you tell the Giants during the season you were going to stay?
JC: No, I never told them. I guess they were thinking I was going to stay and I stayed because I liked the team.

Your first spring was coming off a World Series and last spring was spent with your dad. What will it be like having a normal spring?
JC: I think it should help. I’m here, I got here early. We’ll get to work and see what happens.

Do you have concerns about the blisters?
JC: No, as of right now I don’t feel anything.

Will you change anything so they don’t return?
JC: No, I’m doing the same right now. 

What was it like facing Andrew McCutchen all those years in the NL Central? (McCutchen is 19-for-66 off Cueto with four homers and 15 strikeouts.)
JC: You have to respect him, you have to be careful with him. He’s a very good hitter. He’s a criminal with the bat.

Do you feel pressure to be better than last year after the big moves the front office made?
JC: That was last year, we lost close to 100 games, but we need to forget about what happened. This year we have a good team and I honestly believe we have a team that can take us to the World Series. 

Did you do anything fun in the offseason?
JC: Just the same thing I do every year. I just ride my horses and feed my chickens.

After two straight losses, Giants looking to regroup during All-Star break

After two straight losses, Giants looking to regroup during All-Star break

SAN FRANCISCO — The clubhouse cleared out quickly after Sunday’s games. Players are always in a rush to get to flights home after the final game of the first half, but you have a bit more urgency in your step when you’re trying to leave a couple losses behind.

There is one member of the clubhouse, though, who will not soon forget the way the Giants lost 6-2 to the A’s in their first-half finale. Bruce Bochy watched a lineup that looked tired and incapable of backing a suddenly sturdy staff. Afterward, he promised to spend the next four days pondering some solutions.

“That’s what I’m going to sit on here the next four days — if they need more breaks,” Bochy said. “We’ll think of things to keep them fresher and sharper.”

The team that faced Sean Manaea on Sunday looked very much in need of a break. The Giants had five scattered hits and a performance that would have looked right at home in last season’s first half. Bochy said he saw some tired bats, and the numbers this month look all too familiar, in the wrong way. The Giants have just six homers in July, the least in the Majors, after showing increased power early in the season.

Two have come from Chase d’Arnaud and Pablo Sandoval, fill-ins for Evan Longoria. Alen Hanson and Gorkys Hernandez have the others. That’s not exactly how they drew this up. Bochy cut off a question about the backups having all the power this month.

“Oh I’m well aware of that,” he said, laughing.

Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have an extra-base hit this month, continuing a frustrating first season in San Francisco. Brandon Belt has three doubles but nothing more in July. Buster Posey also has three doubles and Brandon Crawford has a pair. Bochy is pleased with the additions of guys like d’Arnaud, Hanson and Steven Duggar, Sandoval’s improvements and Hernandez’s breakouts, but he knows he needs his big guns down the stretch.

“That’s what we’re missing as much as anything is power,” he said. “Not just homers — we’re not driving the ball like I think we can.”

The staff is hopeful that four days off will help. It’s not like the Giants have a tough travel schedule in front of them. They’ll regroup on Thursday in Oakland for a workout and then play three more in the East Bay, where most of this roster lives. After that it’s a day off and two in Seattle, and then it’s back home.

Bochy revealed that Dereck Rodriguez will get the opener in Oakland, followed by Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Andrew Suarez. Jeff Samardzija, placed on the DL on Sunday, is a possibility for the fifth spot, although Derek Holland seems far more likely.

Rodriguez got the nod in part to break up the lefties and righties, but also as a reward for the good work he has done. He has been a revelation, helping the Giants stay above water. Even after losing two straight to the A’s, the Giants finished the first half at 50-48 and just four games behind the Dodgers in the National League West.

A year ago at the break, this club was 34-56 and 27 games out of first place.

Giants enter All-Star break with a whimper, lose second straight to A's

Giants enter All-Star break with a whimper, lose second straight to A's


SAN FRANCISCO -- There were many positives in the first half for the Giants, but the All-Star break came with a whimper. 

The lineup scattered five hits, Andrew Suarez had a rare dud, and the Giants fell 6-2 to the A's in the third game of this six-game set. They've lost two straight after a good win on Friday night and enter the break with a 50-48 record and in fourth place in the National League West. 

Here's what you need to know from "Don't Miss Your Red-eye Flight" Day... 

--- Suarez was cruising through his final start of the half before the wheels came off in the fourth. Suarez didn’t allow a hit to that point, but Jed Lowrie walked with one out and the A’s followed with four consecutive singles. A sacrifice fly capped the four-run inning. Suarez gave up four earned in five innings, walking two and striking out five. He had allowed four total runs in his four previous starts. 

--- Because of all his injuries, Ray Black often wasn’t allowed to pitch back-to-back days in the minor leagues. Bruce Bochy tested him Sunday, sending him out for the seventh a few hours after Black got a couple outs in relief of Tony Watson. Black easily handled the test, striking out two and getting a pop-up to center. His fastball was down a tick… to 97. 

--- Chase d’Arnaud hit a solo shot, his second since being called up. The veteran is tied with Pablo Sandoval for the team lead in homers in July. That’s nice for d’Arnaud, not so great for this offense. The Giants have just six homers this month.