Cueto gets comfortable, confident in 1st start

March 11th, 2017
Johnny Cueto missed the first three weeks of camp tending to his ailing father in the Dominican Republic. (AP)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On Friday night at 11 p.m. local time, Domingo Cueto told his oldest son, Johnny, it was time to go to bed.

"You have to pitch tomorrow," Domingo said, having already offered a pep talk to the Giants' right-hander, who signed to a $130 million contract last offseason.

Saturday was a big start for Cueto -- in as much as a two-inning spring appearance for a healthy 12-year veteran coming off an All-Star season can be big -- as the Giants rallied for a 9-7 win over the Reds.

Cueto missed the first three weeks of camp tending to his ailing father in the Dominican Republic. After Domingo recovered from what Johnny called "pre-stroke" symptoms, the two arrived in Arizona last week and Johnny appeared in a game for the first time on Saturday -- allowing one run on three hits with a strikeout over two innings.

It also was the first time Domingo watched in person as his son pitched in a Major League uniform. Arriving at Scottsdale Stadium at the start of the second inning, he had to like what he saw as Johnny sat down the Reds in order.

That came after Cueto gave up a run on three hits in the first.

"I felt awkward to start. It was the first time I'd been on a mound in a long time," Cuteo said through a translator after his 33-pitch outing. "The second inning, I felt more comfortable and confident in my pitches. Everything is good."

Cueto used just his fastball and changeup. Because it was such a short outing, he didn't get a chance to throw his curveball or cutter. Those will come in subsequent starts, along with the shimmy and big leg kick.

"Too early. Coming soon," Cueto said in English.

His pick-off move, however, was in midseason form, as he limited the damage in the first by cutting down at first base.

"It's a natural instinct," Cueto said. "Something told me, 'Go to first.' And I did."

It was a good first outing. Cueto made the team today," manager Bruce Bochy deadpanned. "He had a good rhythm out there. I thought it was a good day's work for him."

Cueto still must decide if he will join Team Dominican Republic in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, should the defending champion advance. His delayed start to spring to be home with his father put his WBC status in doubt.

"I'm not sure yet. I need to pitch more so I don't go out there and make a fool of myself or embarrass myself," Cueto said. "If you go to a tournament like that, you have to make sure not only to have a lot of energy, but your arm feels OK and you have all your pitches.

"I may not be ready. As much as I would like to represent my country, I have to also make sure I'm physically ready to go out there and pitch."

As for the regular season, including a possible April 4 start against the D-backs, Cueto is confident he will be ready.

"I have at least five starts to make in Spring Training," he said. "When the regular season starts and they turn the lights on, that's a completely different ballgame."