Johnny Cueto to see doctors, says he still feels pain in right elbow

Johnny Cueto to see doctors, says he still feels pain in right elbow

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.”

Giants' Will Smith attracts trade interest in crowded relief pitcher market


Giants' Will Smith attracts trade interest in crowded relief pitcher market

SAN FRANCISCO — On the last night of the MLB Winter Meetings, two deals sent a shockwave through the crowds gathered at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s lobby bars. The Mets gave Jeurys Familia $30 million, and the Dodgers guaranteed $25 million to Joe Kelly. 

The wall had come crashing down in the crowded relief pitcher market, and in the Giants, suite, it was all smiles. 

The Giants have been patiently waiting for some big-name free-agent relievers to come off the board, knowing they have intriguing alternatives to offer teams looking for cheaper solutions. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls on guys in our bullpen,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “Both veteran guys and even some of the younger guys.”

The majority of the calls, league sources confirmed, center around closer Will Smith.

The St. Louis Cardinals are among the teams that have checked in on Smith, one of the more attractive pieces potentially available this offseason. Smith is coming off a strong season during which he posted a 2.55 ERA, saved 14 games, struck out well over a batter per inning, and showed his pre-Tommy John velocity and command. 

Why would the Giants trade such a piece? They find themselves confronted with an old team-building adage: If you’re not going to contend, the first player you should trade is your closer.

The Giants hope to play competitive baseball down the stretch in 2019, but they also are realistic about how many holes there are on the roster, and they’re willing to trade players such as Smith or Madison Bumgarner if the team is stronger in the long run. 

[RELATED: Why Bumgarner trade now seems more likely at July deadline]

Zaidi kept his cards close for most of the four days in Las Vegas, but he was open about the fact that he’s listening on his relief pitchers. He said he tried to trade Hunter Strickland but could not find a taker, so the Giants non-tendered the right-hander, who remains a free agent. Tony Watson and Sam Dyson are other cost-efficient options, although Smith is the biggest prize.

The left-hander could fit just about any team in the majors. Smith is expected to make only about $4.1 million in his final year of arbitration and could slide in as a closer for a team in need of ninth-inning help, or a late-innings lefty for a team already possessing a solid closer. He can pitch multiple innings and proved to be durable once he returned.

The Giants, per sources, are marketing Smith as an appealing alternative to Andrew Miller and Zach Britton, two veterans who expect to cash in as free agents. Zaidi noted that for teams looking at the high end of the relief market, the "cost certainty of the trade targets may be attractive."

The Giants are looking for young outfielders and cost-controlled starting pitchers in most discussions. If nothing materializes, Zaidi believes he'll go into 2019 with a strong bullpen. Perhaps all of this will be revisited before the July 31 trade deadline. 

"That’s an area of strength for the team. If we keep this group intact, it’s one of the best groups in the National League," Zaidi said of his bullpen. "If it makes sense for us to move somebody to fill needs on the position player side or in the rotation, I think we’re still going to go into next year with a pretty good core." 

MLB rumors: Mike Fiers on Giants' free agency radar; competition high


MLB rumors: Mike Fiers on Giants' free agency radar; competition high

Mike Fiers' stay in the Bay might not be done after all.

The 33-year-old right-hander, whom the A's surprisingly non-tendered earlier this offseason, has drawn interest from the Giants, among other teams, per's Jon Morosi.

While Fiers' most recent stays were in the American League (Oakland, Detroit, Houston), he's no stranger to the National League, having started his eight-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers and pitching four-plus seasons for them. Fiers is known for giving up a lot of homers -- 141 in 898 innings -- but spacious AT&T Park could help mitigate that.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reported last month that the Giants would like to add to their rotation, and Fiers certainly makes sense at the right price. With so many teams in the mix, though, you have to wonder if the cost would rise past the Giants' comfort level.

If not, and Fiers comes on board, he could be a solid piece behind Madison Bumgarner and a mentor-like presence for young starters Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez. And with AT&T Park holding in those long fly balls that would be homers in smaller ballparks, the Giants might have a pitcher who can give them 150-plus innings with an ERA around 4, as he's mostly done the past four seasons.