Johnny Cueto impresses Bruce Bochy, Giants staff with bullpen session


Johnny Cueto impresses Bruce Bochy, Giants staff with bullpen session

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.

[RELATED: Bochy to 'keep pushing' despite ejection and another loss]

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.

Kershaw on Bumgarner: 'One of the best competitors we've got'


Kershaw on Bumgarner: 'One of the best competitors we've got'

LOS ANGELES -- Madison Bumgarner was on the field for about an hour before batting practice on Tuesday, mixing conversation in with his usual work. The ironic thing about Bumgarner's fiery moments against the Dodgers is that he might actually have more friends in Los Angeles than anywhere else other than San Francisco.

Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw have formed a friendship over the years, and during just about every one of the rivals' six matchups a year the two aces can be seen deep in conversation before batting practice. Outfielder Joc Pederson is another Dodger who has gotten to know Bumgarner well. 

But between the lines, it's a different story. 

Whether it's exchanging words with Alex Guerrero, barking at Max Muncy, battling Kiké Hernandez -- who hits Bumgarner like nobody else can -- or trying repeatedly to fight Yasiel Puig, Bumgarner's starts against the Dodgers have always taken on an extra level of intensity. 

Bumgarner has fun with all of that, and the Dodgers do, too. They might come close to blows on occasion, but the next day, Bumgarner and the Dodgers are always just fine, and appreciative of how competitive their matchups are. Kershaw told J.P. Hoornstra of The Orange County Register that the Dodgers know what Bumgarner has brought to the rivalry games.

"When you think about the Giants, coming up with me it was like (Tim) Lincecum for a long time, for a couple years. Then it was Matt Cain for a few years," Kershaw said. "Bum's been the longest-tenured guy. That's just a credit to him. We all have good times ribbing him back and forth, between our clubhouse and theirs. When it comes down to it, I know everyone in here has a ton of respect for what he's done. Any team that gets him is getting one of the best competitors we've got."

Kershaw's last comment refers to swirling trade talks, and this very likely will be Bumgarner's last appearance in the storied rivalry. His work on the mound has exceeded the drama he has brought to the games. In 35 appearances against the Dodgers, Bumgarner has a 15-13 record, 2.52 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. The ERA drops to 2.34 in his 21 appearances at Dodger Stadium.

If this is the last one for the Giants, it has been a hell of a ride in all respects. 

Giants vs. Dodgers lineups: Madison Bumgarner, Max Muncy meet again

Giants vs. Dodgers lineups: Madison Bumgarner, Max Muncy meet again

Get your popcorn ready. Madison Bumgarner and Max Muncy are set to square off for the first time since they yelled at each other on June 9.

Bumgarner could be facing the Dodgers for the final time as a member of the Giants. The teams don't play again until early September, and by that point, Bumgarner could be on another team.

After winning the first game of the series on Monday, the Giants have lost the last two. They'll go for the split against young Dodgers lefty Julio Urias.

[RELATED: Muncy trolls Bumgarner with t-shirt]

First pitch for Giants-Dodgers is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT, with pregame coverage beginning at 6. You can follow all the action on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming online and on the MyTeams app.

San Francisco Giants:
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Tyler Austin (R) RF
3. Buster Posey (R) C
4. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
5. Evan Longoria (R) 3B
6. Kevin Pillar (R) CF
7. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
8. Mike Yastrzemski (L) LF
9. Madison Bumgarner (R) P

Los Angeles Dodgers:
1. Enrique Hernandez (R) CF
2. Justin Turner (R) 3B
3. David Freese (R) 2B
4. Max Muncy (L) 1B
5. Chris Taylor (R) SS
6. Kyle Garlick (R) LF
7. Alex Verdugo (L) RF
8. Austin Barnes (R) C
9. Julio Urias (L) P