Relieved he doesn't need TJ, Cueto admits he pitched through constant pain


Relieved he doesn't need TJ, Cueto admits he pitched through constant pain

PHILADELPHIA -- When a pitcher says his elbow is hurting, the mind usually jumps to Tommy John surgery. Cueto's did, as well, and he was mentally preparing for the worst when he went in to see Dr. James Andrews on Monday morning. 

Andrews almost always comes back with a recommendation to have surgery, but he had Cueto take a contrast MRI and then encouraged him to rehab. Cueto is hopeful that surgery will never be in the cards.

"He's the best in the business, I have to trust him," Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros.

The right-hander will rest and get treatment for two weeks and then be re-evaluated. Trainer Dave Groeschner said there are no plans for an injection of any kind. The hope is that Cueto's elbow tear will scar down and he'll be able to continue pitching. Groeschner said the Giants have had other pitchers quietly do the same in the past.

Cueto has already shown he can pitch through discomfort, if any remains. He said he was in constant pain over his final three starts, but he led the Majors with a 0.84 ERA when he went on the DL. Even then, Cueto offered to make one final start before seeing Andrews.

"You go back 30-40 years and pitchers did that all the time," manager Bruce Bochy said of pitching through pain. "That's what Johnny was saying."

Cueto will miss at least six to eight weeks, but that was the best-case scenario.

"I feel relieved," he said. "My family is happy, I'm happy. I can see my teammates are happy that I'm not going to have Tommy John surgery."

Giants want pitching, but they should stay away from top arm on market

Giants want pitching, but they should stay away from top arm on market

SAN FRANCISCO — A few weeks ago, there was a rumor connecting the Giants to Patrick Corbin. It didn’t make sense for one significant reason. 

The Giants did not have a head of baseball operations at the time. In fact, they had not even interviewed Farhan Zaidi yet. But they’re a big-market team, one that has spent handsomely on pitching in the past, so you can’t blame an agent or someone connected to Corbin for trying to get another team in the mix. 

We now know that Zaidi will be making the decisions at AT&T Park. On his first day in the job, he talked about bringing meaningful baseball back to the ballpark. 

“I’ve had the good fortune of being in the playoffs the last few years,” Zaidi said. “The thing I appreciated most about that was playing meaningful baseball day in and day out and how energizing that is for the fans and the players. Playing out the string when you’re totally out of the playoff race, it takes a toll on the fans and the players and the organization. Our goal is to play meaningful baseball deep into the season, and as soon as we can.”

At AT&T Park, there’s always been one clear way to get to that point: Pitching. The Giants once again have the makings of a strong rotation, with Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez behind Madison Bumgarner, and the hope that Jeff Samardzija can return to form. Perhaps they bring Derek Holland back as a solid contributor. 

[PAVLOVIC: Will Giants take shot at Nathan Eovaldi, another risky starting pitcher?]

But what if they were to really go big?

Per sources, there is a lot of interest in the organization in continuing to spend on the starting staff, regardless of the fact that hitting is a bigger need. Zaidi has always been a creative thinker, and he may look at this situation and realize that doubling down on pitching is an easier way back to contention, even as everyone on the outside connects the Giants to hitters. 

Could that lead the Giants right to the top of the market, to Corbin, as previously rumored? It’s unlikely for a number of reasons, including a big one: Madison Bumgarner.

Zaidi is open to moving Bumgarner, but if the Giants instead want to extend their ace at some point, they can’t afford to have another massive deal on the books. Johnny Cueto is in the middle of a $130 million contract, Samardzija is owed $36 million more, and MLB Trade Rumors projects that Corbin will get somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 million himself. 

It’s reasonable for the Giants to always spend on pitching, knowing that’s the easiest way to be dominant given their ballpark. Cueto and Samardzija did, after all, help lead the team back to the postseason in 2016. But it's unreasonable for them to hand out another $100 million deal to a starter when Bumgarner will want the same in a year. 

Corbin is outstanding. The Giants know that better than most. He faced them six times last year — The Clayton Kershaw Schedule, you might call it — and posted a 2.27 ERA. Giants hitters helped Corbin put up the career year that will likely get him the biggest contract handed out to a starter this winter, but the Giants should avoid this mix. 

The best thing the Giants can do at this point is sit back, look for cheaper starters, and hope that Corbin ends up somewhere like New York or Philadelphia, further weakening the Diamondbacks. A division rival losing an ace would be one small step towards meaningful baseball at AT&T Park. 

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Thursday is dedicated to free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin.

Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis


Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis

Giants manager Bruce Bochy and his assistant hitting coach Rick Schu disagree on comparisons. Bochy sees Steve Finley, Schu sees a a current outfielder who racked up accolades this season. 

Steven Duggar, the Giants smooth center fielder who recently turned 25 years old, fits the mold of both players with his superb defense and left-handed stroke. When Duggar arrived in San Francisco from Triple-A Sacramento on July 8 though, Schu knew changes need to be made to get the prospect into the veteran he could see. 

"The biggest word I can use is aptitude," Schu said Thursday night on KNBR when asked about Duggar. "He came up coming off 100-something strikeouts in Triple-A. He's coming up to the big leagues striking out with a big leg kick, kind of gliding into path. That's not gonna work.

"I was like dude, 'You're gonna make a living putting that ball in play. You need to simplify, put barrel to the ball. Who you need to see is Nick Markakis.'" 

[PAVLOVIC: Giants believe Steven Duggar could end long-running center field saga]

Markakis, who turns 10 years older than Duggar on Saturday, is coming off his first All-Star campaign. Helping lead the Braves to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Markakis slashed .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 43 doubles. The numbers resulted in his first Silver Slugger.

The comparison of the two, just like glimpses of Finley, makes plenty of sense. 

Both outfielders are known more for their glove than their bat despite their offense being far from a detriment to the team. They also have similar lanky, yet muscular builds. Markakis stands 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds while Duggar is one inch taller and 189 pounds with room to fill in more weight as he matures. At the plate, the left-handers even have similar upright stances with their knees slightly bent. 

[PAVLOVIC: Giants Review: Steven Duggar looks ready for everyday shot in center]

"I sent him video of Nick and I go, 'This is who you are. Modify your leg kick, have a two-strike approach, put the ball forward and you'll have success.' And then he was hummin'. I was so fired up, it was really exciting," Schu said. 

But then Duggar's season came to an end on August 29 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder from diving back into second base. He slashed .255/.303/.390 with two home runs and 11 doubles. As he gets more at-bats under him in the big leagues, Schu believes Duggar's power will blossom. 

"He's got some pop in his bat too," Schu said. "And like I say with aptitude. Just the adjustments he made at the big-league level. What he brought to the table wasn't gonna work up here, so he made some adjustments, simplified things and he was able to take it into the games. It was huge." 

No matter if his future is that of Finley or Markakis, the Giants couldn't be any more enthused with what's next for Steven Duggar.