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.