Giants push back Cueto's spring debut

After busy 2015 season, righty will possibly make first Giants start Wednesday

March 4th, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Joining the list of Giants who are being handled with care this spring, right-hander Johnny Cueto was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday against Texas.

The Giants have been concerned about Cueto experiencing a possible hangover from his 2015 workload, which concluded with a full postseason -- something they'd know a lot about after winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Cueto, 30, pitched 212 innings in the regular season, followed by four postseason starts spanning 25 innings.

Speaking through an interpreter, Cueto insisted to reporters at the Giants' training complex in Scottsdale that he has "nothing wrong physically.

"I pitched a lot. The team is holding me back to be cautious with me, and I just appreciate what they're doing for me."

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Cueto's initial Cactus League starting assignment as a Giant has been pushed back "possibly" to Wednesday against Colorado, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy believes Cueto can prepare himself sufficiently for the regular season with five exhibition starts instead of six.

"It's kind of an old-school thought by me, [from] what I've seen with veteran pitchers," Bochy said. "They find a way to get ready in that many starts. It's not like he's had a setback with the arm or anything. He'll throw another [bullpen] side [session] and he'll get in a game."

Bochy emphasized that Cueto is not ready to pitch competitively, even in an exhibition game.

"He wanted to take most of the winter off with all that he threw last year," Bochy said. "Obviously we think he's a hair behind."

The Giants can be expected to treat Cueto gingerly, having signed him to a six-year, $130 million deal as one of last offseason's top free agents.

This has been standard operating procedure for the Giants, who lost numerous players to injuries last season. Only one mishap could be traced directly to Spring Training -- right fielder Hunter Pence's fractured left forearm, and that was a freak injury. Nevertheless, the Giants figure that keeping their regulars as fresh as possible entering the April 4 season opener at Milwaukee is their most prudent approach.

Three games into the Cactus League season, Bochy has stuck to what he calls his "slow-play" strategy. Left fielder Angel Pagan is expected to play his first exhibition game Tuesday against Cincinnati. Center fielder Denard Span and shortstop Brandon Crawford have appeared in one game apiece as designated hitters. Pence's spring debut likely will be delayed at least another week due to right Achilles tendinitis. Third baseman Matt Duffy has started once. Only catcher Buster Posey, second baseman Joe Panik and first baseman Brandon Belt have seen action in two games each.

Occasions such as Saturday, when the Giants play their first split-squad doubleheader, will force Bochy to employ more players. Otherwise, for the next few weeks, he can be expected to continue his sparing use of Pagan (who had knee issues in 2015), Span (groin, hip), Crawford (shoulder), Panik (back) and Posey (wear and tear of catching).