SAN FRANCISCO -- A few weeks ago, there was a lot of doubt about whether Johnny Cueto could get back on a mound at all this season. Cueto made it back to pitch out of the Giants' bullpen during the final homestand of the year, but he didn't have enough time to get built up for the postseason roster.
The Giants are carrying 12 pitchers for the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cueto isn't one of them. Manager Gabe Kapler said it was a "very tough decision."
"I think we would have liked to have had him stretched out and perhaps considered him as somebody who could start one of these games for us," Kapler said Friday, before Game 1 of the best-of-five series. "We just weren't able to get there, and that's tough. In particular it's tough because Johnny has meant so much to the organization, and in particular the last couple of years, we've really depended on him as a guy who can keep the mood light.
"He's just incredibly entertaining and so fun to watch on the field. We've talked a lot this season about players expressing emotion, and I think Johnny embodies that in a very good way."
Cueto, 35, pitched only once in September because of an elbow strain.
The Giants do not have a traditional long man in their bullpen, but they're not concerned. Kapler said the off days in this series -- after Game 2 and again after Game 4 -- should allow every reliever to be available for every game. He also hinted that his Game 3 and Game 4 starters would be available in case of a lengthy game. Alex Wood threw a bullpen session Friday afternoon, seemingly setting him up for a Game 3 start, but Anthony DeSclafani can provide length in case of extra innings.
Kapler said Cueto will travel with the team and continue to work out. He was hopeful the veteran would help keep the team loose. Many of the Giants are experiencing the playoffs for the first time, but Cueto won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals back in 2015.
-- Darin Ruf has been one of Kapler's most dangerous bats, but Kapler went with Wilmer Flores at first base in the series opener.
The Giants also could have gone with LaMonte Wade Jr. at first and used Steven Duggar in the outfield. Duggar has past success against Dodgers starter Walker Buehler.
"We just felt like Flores has been so good for us in such big moments, and I think he's been a good hitter against left-handers and right-handers," Kapler said. "[He's] a veteran guy who's been in some of the biggest moments, come through in those big moments. He's trusted on defense to know our bunt plays and where to deliver the baseball. It just felt like all of those things in aggregate made good sense to have Flores in the lineup."
-- The early leader for quote of the day came from Kapler himself. He said he's well aware of the way Giants fans have been viewing this series on social media, and a reporter followed up by asking Kapler when he possibly finds time to pull up Twitter and Instagram. He said he does it first thing in the morning.
"If I had more discipline, I would probably put my phone away," Kapler said, smiling. "We all strive to be more present. I can say I'm not always the greatest at that, so I pick up my phone and take a look and read."
See, the manager of a 107-win team is -- in one way -- just like the rest of us.