PHOENIX -- Johnny Cueto always stands out in spring training, because while every other pitcher in the row tries to show Giants coaches how well he's throwing, he seems to be playing a light game of catch.
Saturday was the exact opposite.
Cueto, about nine months removed from Tommy John surgery, threw in front of the Giants' staff at Chase Field and opened eyes with his 40 fastballs.
"He threw really, really well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think he surprised a lot of us with where he's at as far as his stuff, how hard he threw, his command."
Cueto's progression has been just about seamless, and he has matched the rehab work by dropping more than 20 pounds. Beyond the weight loss, he has toned up, replacing fat with muscle.
"Right now I feel like I'm a 25-year-old kid," Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros.
"I think this is the best shape I've seen Johnny in," Bochy said. "He looks very determined to get back as soon as possible."
Knowing how long the recovery process is, Bochy wouldn't commit to Cueto making an appearance this season. But the Giants always have targeted Sept. 1 as a return date, and Cueto has told members of the organization that he would like to return in the first half of August. On Saturday, he certainly looked like a pitcher capable of hitting that mark.
Cueto has thrown five bullpen sessions and started throwing his changeup off flat ground. He will throw the changeup in a bullpen session next week, and a week later will mix in breaking balls.
It is full steam ahead, with the goal of returning in time to make a few starts this season that set him up for a big return in 2020.
"My arm is telling me it wants to pitch," Cueto said.