The scariest name in baseball usually leads to the three scariest words in the game. Undoubtedly, we're talking about Dr. James Andrews and Tommy John surgery.
After going on the 10-day DL with elbow inflamation on May 1, Johnny Cueto was set to see Andrews and the idea of Tommy John surgery was said everywhere. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case. Andrews diagnosed Cueto with a sprained right elbow and did not recommend season-ending surgery.
"We feel really good with how we went about the second opinion with Dr. James Andrews," Giants VP of baseball operations Brian Sabean said Thursday on KNBR.
Even Sabean admitted he was surprised with the results. At the time Cueto hit the DL, he was serving as San Francisco's ace with a 3-0 record and 0.84 ERA.
"I was expecting the worst," Sabean said. "But any time something's strained or sprained, that's never good. The area in there in the elbow is somewhat compromised and you hope that rest and rehab is going to do the trick to avoid surgery."
The hope is both relieving and scary. Cueto doesn't need surgery now, but he's had a history with elbow issues and you never know how he will respond to rehab.
"It's a wait-and-see game, but that's a long way off in the horizon and we'll see how we survive without him and Bumgarner," Sabean said.
The Giants originally placed Cueto's timetable as six to eight weeks. Fans will have to wait for the return of Cueto for at least eight weeks as the team placed him on the 60-day DL.
PHILADELPHIA -- The six-to-eight week estimate the Giants first gave for Johnny Cueto's return will be at least eight. The right-hander was put on the 60-day disabled list Thursday, clearing a roster spot for Jose Valdez, who adds a fresh arm to the bullpen. Cueto is not eligible to return until June 28, but manager Bruce Bochy said that's about the date they were looking at anyway.
In the meantime, Bochy is trying to patch his way through a stretch of 17 consecutive games without two starters who usually go deep. Madison Bumgarner will throw a bullpen session next week but figures to be at least a month away. To make it through this stretch, the Giants have shuttled relievers in and out. They don't have a true long man, and Derek Law was the latest to take the hit.
Law flew to Philadelphia, threw 2 1/3 innings Wednesday night, and then was optioned. The timing was poor for Law; he's a Pittsburgh native and won't make the trip home for this weekend's series. Law has twice been optioned after seeing heavy work. D.J. Snelten was optioned earlier this week after throwing 54 pitches.
"We need guys who can give us multiple innings and length," Bochy said. "You're seeing some of these guys get stretched out more."
Bochy said Tyler Beede and Derrick Rodriguez were considered as additions, but the Giants want to keep them on turn in the minors in case they are needed as starters. Beede is coming off a good start. Instead it was Valdez, who has 46 previous big league appearances under his belt.
--- Andrew McCutchen is getting a scheduled day off. Ditto for Buster Posey. The staff is trying to spread out the off days given this current stretch.
--- Bumgarner should be on a rehab appearance in about two weeks. He played catch again Thursday morning and has had no setbacks. For reference, Bumgarner made four minor league rehab starts when he was hurt last year.
--- Hunter Pence is close to restarting his rehab assignment. There is nothing new with Mac Williamson, but he will need a rehab assignment when he's cleared of this concussion.
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."