San Francisco Giants: More Bad News for a Terrible Season

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 30: Johnny Cueto
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 30: Johnny Cueto /

The bad news keeps coming for the San Francisco Giants, whose terrible season continues with more injury problems for a starting pitcher.

Monday’s series opener against the Oakland Athletics turned into another loss for the Giants, their 67th in 107 games. Even though the defeat dropped them to the worst record in baseball, surpassing the Philadelphia Phillies (39-64, .379 winning percentage), the worst news of the night came from San Jose.

Before the eventual bullpen blowup in the late innings, when 11 baserunners and six runs allowed spoiled a solid night for Matt Cain, the ominous news came from the Giants’ High-A affiliate, the San Jose Giants. Johnny Cueto, making a rehab start at his request after being put on the disabled list, was pulled early from his tune-up outing.

Cueto, on the disabled list since July 15th because of recurring blisters, threw just three innings and 34 pitches on a night he was supposed to throw four innings or 75 pitches. His time on the mound was effective, as he held the Visalia Rawhide to two singles and a walk (one of the hits was erased by a pickoff), while he struck out four.

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But because this is the 2017 season and nothing is allowed to go right for the Giants, the early departure wasn’t just because he was throwing the ball so well. Instead, after the Giants lost an 8-5 decision to the Athletics, it was announced that Cueto was pulled prematurely because of tightness in his forearm.

The blisters are no longer of much concern for the 31-year-old right-hander. Manager Bruce Bochy said he doesn’t have any more information as to the extent of the injury right now, and wouldn’t speculate if the injury was just something simple like Mark Melancon‘s flexor strain, or if the injury is much more dire. Either way, the rest of Cueto’s season is in serious jeopardy.

While dealing with blisters all season, Cueto struggled the entire way. In 19 starts in the big leagues, Cueto owns a 4.51 ERA and 1.401 WHIP, both totals that stand as his personal worst since his rookie year in 2008.

If the Giants hope to contend in 2018, as the front office says so adamantly, the number one improvement that would need to be made is from the starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner has looked just about fine since returning from the disabled list, but for the rest of the rotation, this year has been a struggle. Bumgarner has made only eight starts. Matt Moore has taken a gigantic step backwards after showing flashes of brilliance down the stretch last season. Jeff Samardzija has had impeccable command, but is still struggling to keep the ball in the park and runs off the board. Matt Cain has continued his downfall. Ty Blach has been one of the few bright spots this season, establishing himself as a big league starter, but isn’t an ace.

Cueto would need to be one of those pitchers that ups his game, if he were to stick around past this year. He does have an opt-out on his contract after this season, which would void the final four years, but it seems unlikely after all his struggled and injury issues that he would use that option. If worst comes to worst and Cueto needs to miss the entire 2018 season, it would be another huge blow to the team.

As for the rest of this season, Cueto’s rotation spot remains in flux. Cain is still in his spot, but has not been great this season. Tyler Beede isn’t an option, as a groin strain while cause him to likely miss the rest of the season. Andrew Suarez, a 24-year-old left-handed starter prospect, is an option to get a late season call-up, but he’s only eight games (seven starts) into his Triple-A career.

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This season has been miserable, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Getting some good news on Cueto would be a start, but a lot more would need to happen.