Cueto arrives in Giants camp, confirms he'll skip first round of WBC

Cueto arrives in Giants camp, confirms he'll skip first round of WBC

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In recent weeks, Johnny Cueto’s famous Instagram account became the best way for many teammates to keep track of the missing right-hander. Cueto pulled a tire on the beach in one video. He jumped over hurdles in a gym. He did rope work in a yard, with prospects looking on. 

“It wasn’t like I was in the Dominican sitting down,” Cueto said Saturday, through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I was working hard.”

The coaching staff saw that through other videos, clips of bullpen sessions that Cueto was throwing at the team’s facility in Boca Chica. He faced hitters during three live batting practice sessions, and when he finally checked into camp on Saturday morning, Cueto said he’s probably a little ahead of where he was this time a year ago. 

In his first spring with the Giants, Cueto was coming off a long postseason run with the Royals. He was slow-played. This time around, Cueto accelerated his work to prepare for the World Baseball Classic. But he confirmed Saturday that he will not participate in the first round. 

“I feel bad,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I wanted to be able to be a part of the first round, but they know why I won’t be there.”

Cueto said he may join the Dominican Republic if his countrymen can advance to the second round, but even that seems like a bit of a long shot. While Cueto feels strong physically, he said he’ll need to take some time to “adjust” to being in big league camp. He had a physical on Saturday and spoke with manager Bruce Bochy, who plans to ease Cueto into camp. 

"We're not going to put him in a game right away," Bochy said. "We've got to give him a few days to get acclimated here and then see where he's at."

Bochy kept in touch with Cueto throughout his absence, and the Giants helped him get his father, Domingo, over to Scottsdale. Domingo Cueto was hospitalized for 10 days last month with what was described to Johnny as a pre-stroke. He had kidney problems and wasn’t recognizing people, but Johnny said his father is doing much better. 

“As the head of the family, I felt I needed to stay there to make sure nothing worse happened,” he said. “If I reported when I was supposed to report and something did happen to my dad, then it would have been worse to go back (with) the distance.”

Domingo will stay with Johnny as he kicks off what could be his final year with the Giants. His contract, signed in December of 2015, includes an opt-out clause after the second year. Cueto said that’s not on his mind. 

“To me, this is just a regular year,” he said. 

The Giants hope it’s another long one. They’re counting on Cueto to repeat his outstanding 2016 season, when he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and pitched 219 2/3 innings. Cueto noted that he’s part of a very strong rotation, one that should lead the club back to the postseason. If the Giants get there, Cueto might get another shot at a Cubs team he relished facing last season. He was scheduled to start Game 5 of the NLDS, but the Giants couldn’t put their season on his shoulders. 

“I really did want to pitch that fifth game,” Cueto said. “But it didn’t happen. The only thing I can think of now is this new year.”


Giants trade minor league infielder for veteran catcher Erik Kratz


Giants trade minor league infielder for veteran catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after they made a seemingly endless series of transactions, the Giants got going with an early morning trade. 

Catcher Erik Kratz was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers, with minor league infielder C.J. Hinojosa headed the other way. The deal was made a day after the Giants released Rene Rivera, a similar veteran who appeared in line for an Opening Day job. 

When Rivera was let go, Aramis Garcia looked to be in line for the backup job. But Kratz is a right-handed-hitting veteran who is out of options, so the Giants may keep him instead. Kratz, 38, will be playing for his eighth big league team. He hit .236 for the Brewers last year with six homers and six doubles in 203 at-bats. 

Kratz was a surprise contributor in the postseason, hitting .292 in 26 plate appearances. He is known for doing good work defensively and is a strong clubhouse presence. 

It's unclear why the Giants elected to go with Kratz over Rivera, who worked with their pitchers all camp. Or why they may be shying away from sticking with Garcia, who had a good spring and also knows the pitching staff well. Those questions will be answered in the next four days, and the Giants figure to make many more moves before the dust settles. 

[RELATED: Giants trade Matt Joyce after three days with team]

Hinojosa was once viewed as a future utility man at the big league level, but he was suspended 50 games last season for a positive test for a drug of abuse. When he returned, he posted a .689 OPS. 

To clear a 40-man spot for Kratz, the Giants DFA'd pitcher Jose Lopez, acquired at the start of the spring from the Reds. 

Connor Joe reveals first reaction when traded to Giants from Reds

Connor Joe reveals first reaction when traded to Giants from Reds

Ever since he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Connor Joe has been working to get to the big leagues.

It appears the San Diego native will finally get that shot. A trade from the Reds to the Giants may have smashed open the door for Joe.

"It was exciting," Joe told KNBR 680 on Saturday when asked what his initial reaction was to the trade. "I was thrilled for the opportunity to get back with a team on the West Coast ... that's closer to home is an amazing opportunity for me."

Joe attended Poway High School in San Diego, and then went to the University of San Diego. The Pittsburgh Pirates used the No. 39 overall draft pick on Joe in 2014 and then traded him to Atlanta in August of 2017 for Sean Rodriguez. A month later, the Braves shipped him to the Dodgers. This past December, the Reds claimed Joe in the Rule 5 draft.

Then the trade to the Giants happened on Thursday.

Joe knows San Francisco well. During his time in the West Coast Conference, Joe made plenty of trips to the Bay Area to face the University of San Francisco, Saint Mary's and Santa Clara. He told KNBR's Marty Lurie that his sister lives in San Francisco, and that he traveled up state with his dad for the 2007 MLB All-Star Game.

"It's a great city, I love it," Joe said. "It's a little different speed than I'm used to in San Diego, but I'm really excited to be there and really excited for this opportunity."

The 2018 season was a breakout campaign for the 26-year-old. After hitting just 11 home runs his first three minor league seasons, Joe crushed 17 home runs last season between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City, and finished the year with a .299/.408/.527 slash line.

What led to the improved play?

"For me, I think the biggest thing was allowing my athletic abilities to come out and not being trapped in a certain way that people wanted me to be," Joe said. "So, I told myself to be athletic in the box, out in the field and saw really positive results from that."

One of the aspects that made Joe attractive to the Giants is his versatility. He has experience at first base, third base, left field and right field. But he doesn't have a preferred position.

"I can't tell you what I am," Joe said. "I'm a baseball player. It's something I've done throughout my career, starting in college, so I'm used to bouncing around from game to game, even inning to inning."

Things can change in a hurry, but considering that the Giants acquired him a week before Opening Day, it's safe to say they envision him on the roster.

[RELATED: Giants reportedly acquire Michael Reed]

Guess where the Giants open the 2019 season? Yep. San Diego.

Imagine if Joe is able to make his major league debut in his hometown in front of his family. What a story that would be.