Cueto out as Giants set NLDS roster

October 9th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants set their 26-man roster for the National League Division Series against the Dodgers on Friday, though there was one notable omission:

Cueto, the Giants’ longest-tenured pitcher, was left off the NLDS roster after missing most of September with a right elbow injury. The 35-year-old veteran returned for the final weekend of the regular season, but the Giants asked him to shift to the bullpen for the first time in his 14-year career.

Cueto was viewed as a long-relief option heading to the postseason, but the Giants are hoping they’ll be able to get by without a ton of length out of the bullpen due to the two built-in off-days in the best-of-five NLDS, which begins on Friday night at Oracle Park.

“I think we would have liked to have had him stretched out and perhaps considered him as somebody who could start one of these games for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We just weren't able to get there, and that's tough. In particular it's tough because Johnny has meant so much to the organization and in particular the last couple of years. We've come to really depend on him as a guy who can keep the mood light, just incredibly entertaining and so fun to watch on the field. … Our fans love watching Johnny pitch, so we'll miss that, and we will ask him to bring as much of that as possible.”

The Giants opted to carry 14 position players and 12 pitchers, giving Kapler plenty of pinch-hit options to deploy against the Dodgers. Alex Dickerson also made the cut over Thairo Estrada, leaving the Giants without a true backup shortstop behind Brandon Crawford, who will be expected to start every postseason game.

Here’s a full breakdown of the roster:

, C: Casali caught nine of the Giants’ 18 shutouts while serving as Posey’s primary backup, a sign of defensive prowess and his ability to deftly handle the club’s pitching staff. He posted a 2.72 catcher’s ERA during the regular season, the best figure in the Majors.

, C: A three-time World Series champion, Posey will be looking to add another title to his already decorated resume. The Giants carefully monitored the 34-year-old’s workload during the regular season, but Posey will be expected to start every game during the playoffs, health permitting.

, SS: A rejuvenated Crawford emerged as the Giants’ leading NL MVP Award candidate this year, batting .298 with an .895 OPS and 24 homers -- all career highs -- while continuing to provide Gold Glove Award-caliber defense at shortstop.

, INF: Flores sees most of his time on the right side of the infield against lefties and has repeatedly been called one of the team’s most clutch hitters by manager Gabe Kapler.

, 2B: La Stella is the Giants’ preferred leadoff hitter and second-base option against right-handed starters. La Stella missed 79 games with hamstring and thumb injuries, but he began to heat up down the stretch, hitting .297 with an .897 OPS and four homers over his last 21 games.

, 3B: Longoria is heading into his first postseason since 2013 mired in a 3-for-37 slump over his last 11 games, but the three-time Gold Glove Award winner continues to provide stabilizing defense on the left side of the infield alongside Crawford.

, 1B/OF: Ruf is one of the Giants’ most dangerous weapons against left-handed pitching, so he’s likely to draw most of his starts at first base or in left field against southpaws. His 1.007 OPS against lefties this season was the sixth-highest mark in the Majors.

, 2B: The right-handed-hitting Solano has formed a platoon with La Stella at second base, where he captured his first career NL Silver Slugger Award last season. The native of Barranquilla, Colombia, will primarily start against lefties and will be available to come off the bench when he’s not in the starting lineup.

, INF/OF: Acquired from the Cubs in exchange for prospects Alexander Canario and Caleb Kilian at the Trade Deadline, Bryant posted an underwhelming .788 OPS over 51 games with the Giants, but he has the potential to be a difference-maker in October and help fill the power void left by Belt.

, OF: Dickerson has the ability to carry the Giants’ offense when he’s hot, but he’s struggled to find a consistent offensive rhythm this year, posting a .725 OPS over 111 games.

, OF: Duggar will be available to serve as a defensive replacement in center field and as a pinch-runner for the Giants, who are otherwise lacking much speed on a roster that features the oldest group of position players in the Majors.

, OF: The right-handed-hitting Slater will start in center field and bat leadoff against lefties. Slater is also a power threat off the bench, as he crushed a team-high four pinch-hit home runs this season.

, 1B/OF: Nicknamed “Late Night” LaMonte due to his propensity for coming up with clutch hits in the ninth inning or later, Wade could see more time at first base against right-handed starters following the injury to Brandon Belt. Wade is primarily an outfielder, but he played first base in college and has looked comfortable in 31 games there this season.

, OF: Yastrzemski finished second on the team with a career-high 25 home runs in his third season with the Giants. He typically starts in center field against righties.

, LHP: Signed to a one-year, $1.15 million deal on March 6, Álvarez has been a bargain for the Giants this year, posting a 2.37 ERA over 67 appearances. His ability to induce soft contact has allowed him to work out of some tight spots, as he’s stranded 28 of 36 inherited runners this year.

, RHP: The youngest member of the Giants’ roster, the 22-year-old Castro pairs an electric fastball with a sharp curveball. Known as “El Tanque” (The Tank), Castro worked 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts over 10 appearances after making his Major League debut on Sept. 7.

, RHP: DeSclafani enjoyed a career year in his first season with the Giants, posting a 3.17 ERA over 31 starts. There are some fatigue concerns with DeSclafani, who logged only 33 2/3 innings in an injury-marred season with the Reds last year, but the 31-year-old veteran believes he’ll receive a boost from the postseason adrenaline in October.

, RHP: Doval emerged as perhaps the Giants’ biggest surprise down the stretch, firing 16 1/3 scoreless innings with 24 strikeouts over his last 16 appearances en route to earning National League Reliever of the Month honors for September. With a blazing fastball that topped out at 102.5 mph and a wipeout slider, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Doval get a chance to stick as the Giants’ closer in the postseason.

, LHP: García is one of the Giants’ most trusted lefty options and mixes his low-90s fastball with a slider and changeup. He is poised to pitch in the postseason for the first time.

, RHP: Gausman, the Giants’ Game 2 starter, posted a sterling 1.73 ERA in the first half, but he struggled to sustain that level of dominance in the second half after losing his feel for his splitter. Gausman recaptured his All-Star form over his final two starts of the regular season, though, delivering encouraging outings against the Rockies and Padres to end the year with a career-best 2.81 ERA.

, RHP: Leone has been a jack of all trades in the Giants’ bullpen, serving as an opener, closer and trusted back-end guy throughout the season. He recorded the final three outs of the Giants’ 11-4 win over the Padres on Sunday to clinch the NL West title, earning a trademark Buster Hug in the process.

, RHP: Signed to a Minor League deal on Feb. 4, Littell emerged as another quality right-handed relief option for San Francisco this year, recording a 2.92 ERA over 63 appearances.

, LHP: There is some lingering uncertainty about McGee, who missed 13 games with an oblique strain and didn’t see game action after returning from the injured list on Saturday. McGee, who recorded a 2.72 ERA with a career-high 31 saves this year, is confident he’ll be ready to slot back into the Giants’ back-end mix, though it remains to be seen if he’ll remain the closer, particularly given the rise of young flamethrower Camilo Doval.

, RHP: Rogers led the Majors in appearances (80) for the second consecutive season, serving as the workhorse of the Giants’ stout bullpen. Known for his submarine delivery, Rogers averages a mere 82.7 mph on his fastball, but he has the ability to stay off barrels and minimize hard contact, making him effective against lefties and righties alike.

, RHP: Webb was tapped to start Game 1 against the Dodgers on Friday following a breakout second half during which he went 10-0 with a 2.40 ERA over his last 20 starts. Webb’s 20 consecutive starts without being charged with a loss are tied for second in franchise history with Jack Sanford in 1962 and Rube Marquard from 1911-12.

, LHP: Wood, a former Dodger, missed three weeks following a bout with COVID-19 in September, but he bounced back well after returning from the injured list, allowing only two runs over 13 innings over his final three outings. He is expected to be fully stretched out heading into the postseason and has been described as a possible Game 3 or 4 starter by Kapler.