SAN FRANCISCO — Johnny Cueto doesn’t much care that he’ll take a 5.06 ERA into the offseason. The number he cares about is four.
Cueto wanted to return to the rotation this September and prove that Tommy John surgery was behind him. While his four starts had ups and downs, they gave Cueto plenty of confidence heading into the offseason.
“It’s a long process and what I wanted to do was see how I felt,” he said after a 9-2 loss to the Dodgers. “I wasn’t too worried about the results. I felt great so I’ll take this into the winter as a positive.”
After 13 months of rehab, Cueto returned to a big-league mound on September 10 and opened his season with two straight shutout starts. But the Braves took advantage of uncharacteristic wildness last time out, and the Dodgers smashed him with a different approach.
Cody Bellinger opened the second inning Friday with a long homer to right field, prompting "MVP" chants from a crowd that seemed at least half-Dodger blue. Before the visitors had even sat down, Corey Seager hit a solo shot. Joc Pederson capped the five-run inning with a two-run blast that bounced into the body of water that Max Muncy believes is an ocean.
“He was wild in the strike zone,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “A couple of those changeups came back and stayed in the nitro zone and the fastball he didn’t quite get where he wanted. They took advantage of it.”
Cueto ended up throwing just 16 innings in four September starts, allowing nine runs. Still, there were plenty of positives. Most importantly, Cueto showed that he's healthy. His velocity was normal through the month and he had no issues with his surgically-repaired elbow.
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Throughout the rehab process, the Giants were confident Cueto would find his old top-of-the-rotation form, and they'll need it when he shows up fresh next February. Cueto either will team with a re-signed Madison Bumgarner to give them a strong duo at the top of the rotation, or he'll take on a larger role, leading what's expected to be a younger group.