SAN FRANCISCO — In early May, Johnny Cueto flew to Florida to see Dr. James Andrews. He was sure he was going to be told he needed Tommy John surgery. Instead, Dr. Andrews presented Cueto with what the right-hander believed was a miracle.
Dr. Andrews told him to rest. He told him he could keep pitching after a break. On Saturday night, the Giants and the pitcher came to the awful conclusion that Cueto cannot keep pitching, at least not right now.
Cueto was pulled after four flat innings of a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and afterward admitted that his elbow bothers him “every time I throw a pitch.” He will meet with team doctors on Sunday morning.
“I keep telling you guys and keep telling myself I’m fine, but in reality, I’m not,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros.
Cueto has tried to will himself through this. Without anything close to his best stuff, he has thrown a stream of changeups and slow two-seamers and sliders at opposing hitters. They have not been fooled. In four starts since returning, Cueto has allowed 16 runs in 21 innings. He has faced 97 batters and 30 of them have gotten hits.
On Saturday, Cueto threw 12 pitches in the first inning and none were faster than 85.6 mph. Only three of his 61 pitches clocked in higher than 89 mph, with a max of 90 on a pitch to Lorenzo Cain. Cueto got just two swinging strikes Saturday, one each from the No. 7 hitter and the No. 8 hitter. He later said he had trouble warming up.
“It’s very difficult. It’s very hard to get loose,” he said. “I feel very bad.”
Cueto said he has tried to be a warrior and help the team, but all sides realized on Saturday that the effort is only leading to harm. Before Cueto spoke, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if the staff needed to take the ball out of Cueto’s hands, prioritizing his health.
“No question,” Bochy said. “Johnny is going to be honest. He was honest before. We’ll know here in a day or two.”
Bochy won’t be around Sunday. He’s flying to Cooperstown for Trevor Hoffman’s induction into the Hall of Fame, but when he returns it seems likely the team will be without a former co-ace. It’s hard to see a light at the end of this tunnel. After weeks of trying to be positive, Cueto seemed to understand that on Saturday night. Bochy did, too.
“I’ve got to be honest,” the manager said, “There’s concern there for Johnny.”