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

Johnny Cueto avoided Tommy John surgery earlier in the year after a serious scare. But on Saturday night, Cueto admitted there’s something wrong…

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' Johnny Cueto takes step toward returning to rotation

Giants' Johnny Cueto takes step toward returning to rotation

WASHINGTON — Still expressing relief that he didn’t need Tommy John surgery, Johnny Cueto threw off a mound for the first time since beginning his rehab from an elbow injury.

He threw 35 pitches in the Giants’ bullpen before Friday’s series opener at Nationals Park and said he’d like to return about the time he’s eligible to come off the disabled list, which is June 30.

“I want to come back on that day,” Cueto said. “I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen with the bullpen (sessions). As you all know, throwing bullpens are totally different from pitching in a game.”

The plan is to throw twice more off a mound and then pitch to hitters. From there, he said he might need just two minor-league rehab starts.

It’s a promising outlook for the 32-year-old who last pitched in a game April 28. An MRI showed damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, and he went to Florida to see Dr. James Andrews, who recommended rehab over surgery.

“Thank God I won’t have to go to surgery,” Cueto said. “It was a roller coaster. I had already made up my mind. I was 100 percent sure that I was going to get the Tommy John surgery. In my mind, that is big.”

Jeff Samardzija (shoulder tightness) also threw off a mound Friday and is much closer to returning than Cueto. After Samardzija’s next throwing session, the team will determine he’s ready for a rehab start.

Madison Bumgarner made his first 2018 start Tuesday after his broken finger healed, and the Giants’ top three pitchers have yet to be in the rotation together.

Asked about one day having the projected rotation intact in the season’s second half, Cueto said, “We don’t know. This is baseball. It’s like Russian Roulette. You don’t know what you’re going to get. I just hope when I come back, I’m healthy and hope I stay healthy and that we continue playing the baseball we’ve been playing.”

John Shea is The San Francisco Chronicle’s national baseball writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @JohnSheaHey

Giants RHP Cueto likely sidelined into July

Giants RHP Cueto likely sidelined into July

Reuters

The San Francisco Giants transferred right-hander Johnny Cueto to the 60-day disabled list Thursday as he recovers from a sprained elbow expected to sideline him six to eight weeks.

The move means Cueto, originally placed on the 10-day DL on May 1, won’t return to the rotation until June 30 at the earliest, as the Giants will exercise caution with the 32-year-old.

With the open 40-man roster spot, the Giants promoted right-hander Jose Valdez from Triple-A Sacramento, optioning right-handed reliever Derek Law to Sacramento in a corresponding move.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy also told reporters Thursday that ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner will throw a bullpen next week, his first since he broke a finger on his pitching hand in spring training. Bumgarner was cleared to start throwing earlier this week and is expected back shortly after he is eligible to be activated off the 60-day DL on May 26.

Valdez, 28, has a 2-4 record and 5.72 ERA in 46 career major league appearances. He was 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA in 12 appearances for Sacramento this season.

Law, 27, has a 7.00 ERA in four outings with the Giants this season. He allowed two hits in 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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Johnny Cueto Suffers Ankle Injury vs. Mariners

Johnny Cueto Suffers Ankle Injury vs. Mariners

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throws to the plate during the second inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto suffered an ankle injury during Wednesday’s 10-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at AT&T Park.

According to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the right-hander “tweaked his ankle” and manager Bruce Bochy “wasn’t sure how he got through six innings.”

Despite this setback, Cueto has been relatively durable in recent years, making at least 25 starts in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

He allowed one earned run and eight hits in Wednesday’s win.

When healthy, Cueto is a force on the mound who posted an ERA of 2.82 or lower every season from 2011 to 2014 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. He also won a World Series in 2015 with the Kansas City Royals and is a two-time All-Star.

The Giants can ill-afford another injury to their pitching staff, seeing as Madison Bumgarner is out with a fractured hand and Jeff Samardzija is dealing with a pectoral injury.

Ty Blach, Derek Holland and Chris Stratton provide some depth, but it is difficult to envision the Giants challenging in the National League West if Cueto doesn’t remain healthy with Bumgarner already sidelined.