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Cueto gets Opening Day nod for Giants

@goodforball
March 11, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Johnny Cueto’s admirable career performance overshadowed his more recent spring efforts, in the mind of Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who selected the right-hander to start the March 26 season opener against the Dodgers at Los Angeles. This will be Cueto’s first Opening Day start with the Giants.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Johnny Cueto’s admirable career performance overshadowed his more recent spring efforts, in the mind of Giants manager Gabe Kapler, who selected the right-hander to start the March 26 season opener against the Dodgers at Los Angeles.

This will be Cueto’s first Opening Day start with the Giants. He started four consecutive openers for Cincinnati from 2012-15, compiling a record of 1­-1 with a 0.64 ERA in those games. He’s 7-9 with a 3.53 ERA in 20 lifetime starts against Los Angeles, including 4-5, 2.36 in 10 starts at Dodger Stadium.

Cueto was outstanding in 2016, his first season with the Giants, finishing 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts. Since then, injuries have plagued him, including blisters, a sprained left ankle and elbow issues that led to Tommy John surgery on Aug. 2, 2018. These ailments and the surgery limited him to 13 appearances with the Giants from 2018-19.

Cueto owns a 12.79 ERA in three Cactus League outings this spring. Kapler cared about none of that.

“We kind of have a choice here, right? We can lean on 10 years or two weeks in Spring Training,” Kapler said. “I think we lean on the track record of success, the athleticism, the physical peak. ... Right now we’re seeing an athletic version of Johnny Cueto.”

Kapler admitted that, to be careful, he asked the team’s medical staff to give Cueto a cursory examination. The 34-year-old was completely fit, prompting Kapler to inform Cueto of his Opening Day assignment. Kapler said that he received a big smile in return.

“He’s fully healthy,” Kapler said. “He’s showing that he’s athletic in that he can repeat his delivery and is bouncing back well after his starts. This is a guy who thrives in the spotlight. Opening Day is a big, exciting day for a lot of people, Johnny Cueto included.”

Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will start the season’s second game for the Giants, Kapler added.

Noteworthy
• The Giants’ Cactus League game against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium was shortened to five innings because of rain that left the outfield too slick to run on. The Giants prevailed, 6-4.

Kevin Gausman, a candidate for the starting rotation, yielded four runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.

“There were a few pitches I think he wishes he could get back, but for the most part it was a high-quality outing,” Kapler said.

Drew Smyly, a strong bet to win a spot in the rotation, threw the equivalent of four innings in a batting cage back at the Giants’ Scottsdale, Ariz., training complex.

Up next
The Giants have an off-day Thursday and then will play split-squad games Friday. Logan Webb will start a 7:05 p.m. PT game vs. the D-backs at Scottsdale Stadium. Shaun Anderson will take the ball for a 6:10 p.m. game against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Both games are available via MLB.TV and Gameday Audio.

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.