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Giants' Cueto won't follow through with winter ball plans

NBC Sports

As always, Johnny Cueto's Instagram page is filled these days with videos of the right-hander lifting and doing conditioning work in the Dominican Republic. The offseason training won't include a stint in winter ball, though. 

Cueto had asked the Giants for permission to pitch in the Dominican this offseason and a month ago it seemed it would actually happen, but in a Zoom press conference with reporters on Tuesday, manager Gabe Kapler said that's no longer in the cards. Kapler didn't provide much detail, but it sure seemed it was a decision made by the Giants, not the pitcher. 

"That's always going to be a choice that considers the health and well-being of a player," Kapler said. "I think it always considers the long-term interests of the club as well. I think all of those things considered, that's probably why Johnny is not pitching in winter ball."

Kapler said the sides spoke a couple times about the possibility, which would have been unusual for someone with Cueto's experience. Cueto has not played winter ball in a dozen years, but in mid-November it was reported in the Dominican Republic that he was set to pitch for Estrellas Orientales, his hometown team. Estrellas is managed by Giants Double-A manager Jose Alguacil.

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Cueto, who turns 35 during spring training, is entering the final season of a six-year, $130 million contract. He had a 5.40 ERA in 12 starts in 2020 and Kapler said Tuesday that Cueto was dealing with minor bumps and bruises during the year, which was not at all up to his previous standards. Cueto had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed most of the 2019 season.  

 

"He was pitching through little things, not big things, but little things that bothered him enough where he wasn't able to be at his best all the time," Kapler said. 

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