The SF Giants received some encouraging news on Sunday morning as it was revealed that Johnny Cueto will be able to ramp up baseball activities this week as Maria Guardado of MLB.Com reports. The veteran pitcher was placed on the injured list earlier this month with an elbow strain in his pitching elbow, which did not leave a promising outlook for a return in 2021.
SF Giants: Could Johnny Cueto help down the stretch?
That said, his rehab appears to be going better than expected. Cueto had been stretching out his arm recently, and he appears to be healthy enough to pursue a brief, rehab assignment.
This is good news for a Giants rotation that has had to employ bullpen games multiple times every week as Alex Wood and Cueto were on the injured list. Wood was recently activated from the injured list, and it sounds like Cueto will be following him shortly. Once Cueto returns, the Giants’ rotation will be back to full strength.
When healthy, the 35-year-old pitcher has been a good and consistent performer, registering a 4.09 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, and a 3.28 SO/W ratio across 112.1 frames in 2021. This is a far cry from the pitcher Cueto was earlier in his career when he posted a 3.21 ERA in his first eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
Despite this, the right-handed hurler can still help the SF Giants in the final weeks of the season as he continues to excel at disrupting the opposing hitter’s timing.
This might be Cueto’s final act with the Giants as the team holds a $22 million option for 2022 that they can buy out for $5 million. The front office will be looking to rebuild the rotation yet again as many of the key arms will be free agents at the end of the season.
That is a conversation for a different day as the SF Giants continue to battle for first place in the National League West. At 97-53, the Giants have the best record in baseball and hold a one-game lead in the division, but they are facing a difficult challenge with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Cueto’s return could help them create some distance between the division rivals. At the very least, his presence will give the rotation a chance to soak up a few more innings, giving the bullpen a much-needed break as they gear up for the playoffs.