Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto drops 20 pounds, prepares for big step in rehab process

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AP

Johnny Cueto drops 20 pounds, prepares for big step in rehab process

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Even during rehab, perhaps especially during rehab, Johnny Cueto’s Instagram page is must-watch. 

Cueto, seemingly on a daily basis, would send a collection of clips showing the conditioning work that helped him drop 20 pounds. That cause was helped by a diet heavy on fish and salads, and Cueto showed those meals off, too. This week there was sadness, as Cueto sent out photos and videos of his beloved horse, Popeye, who died recently, either because of a stomach issue or because he ate a poisonous grasshopper. 

Perhaps the most important videos, though, were the ones featuring his van that looks straight out of “Pimp My Ride.” With the music blasting from its many speakers, Cueto would hold the camera up with a big smile on his face.

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Calentando la reina 👸

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Tommy John surgery can lead pitchers to the brink of depression, but Cueto kept perspective. He kept his joy, and on Thursday he looked at peace as he sat through his first interview of the spring. The big smile should be there in a week. That’s when Cueto will finally be cleared for a simple game of catch.

“Right now, I feel like I’m ready,” Cueto said. “But I know I’m not.”

This is a tedious process, but Cueto knows what the light at the end of the tunnel represents. He admitted Thursday that he pitched in partial pain for three years before having Tommy John surgery in August — one of those years, 2016, he started the All-Star Game — and at some point late this season, he could be back to 100 percent. The Giants have a soft target of Sept. 1 for Cueto to return to the big leagues, but he said he doesn’t have a goal in mind. 

“If that’s the case, I’ll be very happy,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “Whenever they tell me I’m ready, I’ll be ready.”

There’s a dream scenario where the Giants stay in the race, Cueto sails through a summer of rehab, pitches a few minor league games and gives the big league team a boost in September.

There’s the nightmare scenario where the team falls out early, trades big names at the deadline, and Cueto makes three September starts in a half-empty stadium just to get a head start on 2020. 

[RELATED: 2019 Giants Position Preview: Plenty of starting pitching depth, for now]

For now, the Giants aren’t focused on either. Cueto is going day by day, throwing plastic balls off a net and preparing for the day when he can step out on the grass, stand a few feet from a trainer, and toss a baseball a few times. It's coming fast. The rest will be decided over the course of a long season. 

“Sure, we’d love to see Johnny start. That would mean we’re probably sitting in a pretty good position,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But we’re not going to do something that doesn’t make sense with the medical staff and where he’s at. Because you get through that and then you have another offseason to really heal up. We’ll see where he’s at when we get to August.”

Camp Observations: Could the Giants successfully carry three catchers?

Camp Observations: Could the Giants successfully carry three catchers?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy sat down in the dugout, looked around at beat reporters in front of him, and smiled. 

“It’s great to see you guys,” he said. 

Bochy may feel differently in a month, or three, or by September. We will wear him down. But on Day 1, there’s no taking the bounce out of a manger’s step. The first day of the spring always brings hope, no matter your situation, and the Giants got underway shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday when Ty Blach hopped up the dugout steps and onto the field. The rest of the team soon followed. Here are three observations from a day that started with yet another roster move … 

Three catchers?

Buster Posey didn’t appear limited during the first workout, but running is still a tricky issue after hip surgery and Bochy said we’ll see some adjustments to Posey’s schedule later on. 

“Once we get a little closer to games and maybe the workload is picked up, we will monitor him,” Bochy said. “He feels great right now.”

Posey was in a hitting group with Rene Rivera, Stephen Vogt, and Joey Bart, who was the focus of today’s main story. Vogt looked healthy while hitting but is behind with his throwing. Bochy anticipates him in games the second week of March, and Vogt could be ready for Opening Day. That could put him on the roster. Bochy said there’s a real shot that the Giants carry three catchers early on given Posey’s situation, and Vogt provides a different look as a left-handed bat. 

Don’t Forget Garcia

You might remember September as the month the Giants lost just about every single night. Aramis Garcia prefers to remember it as the month he made a statement, batting .286 with four homers. Now, Garcia also struck out in nearly half his at-bats, part of the reason Bochy said Wednesday that you prefer to have young players playing every day and getting needed at-bats. 

But Garcia provides pop off the bench and showed that he can more than handle himself at first, so he’s in the mix. 

“We’ll stay open-minded,” Bochy said. 

There’s nothing Garcia can do about the flood of veteran catchers who have come into camp, but he came in looking to be in tremendous shape, and he said he’s ready to play more first base over the next six weeks if asked. Bochy said that’s a possibility. 

Few complications

Most of the position players are at Scottsdale Stadium already even though they don’t have to report until next Monday, and Johnny Cueto was the only significant pitcher who didn’t make it in by Tuesday’s first workout. Cueto, recovering from Tommy John surgery, had a personal issue to take care of but will be here Thursday, Bochy said. The personal issue is not, we're told, related to his horse, Popeye, who passed away Tuesday.

Two other pitchers will be late: non-roster invitees Jandel Gustave and Carlos Navas. The Giants went after Gustave hard when he became a minor league free agent, but he waited until about 10 days ago to sign. The front office was pretty psyched to get the 26-year-old right-hander. 

Giants trade for Trevor Gott from Nationals; Johnny Cueto to 60-day IL

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USATSI

Giants trade for Trevor Gott from Nationals; Johnny Cueto to 60-day IL

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The roster churn continued Wednesday morning, a couple of hours before the Giants took the field for the first time. 

The Giants acquired right-handed reliever Trevor Gott from the Washington Nationals in exchange for cash considerations. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Johnny Cueto was put on the 60-day injured list. 

Gott, 26, was recently designated for assignment. He made 20 appearances for the Nationals last year, posting a 5.68 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. Gott’s best big league season was his first one. He had a 3.02 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 48 appearances for the Angels in 2015.

[RELATED: Giants claim Jose Lopez from Reds]

The move does not impact Cueto at all. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery and has not begun throwing yet. The Giants do not expect him back until September 1.