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Stratton delivers length in Cueto's stead

Spot starter goes 6 2/3 in first MLB start; DL unlikely for Cueto despite ear infection
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

Johnny Cueto's inner ear infection compromised the Giants' chances of making their solid trip a superb one, as they fell, 6-2, to the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Giants entered the Interleague series finale 14 games under .500 on the road, but they owned a 5-5 record behind Cueto outside of AT&T Park.

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Johnny Cueto's inner ear infection compromised the Giants' chances of making their solid trip a superb one, as they fell, 6-2, to the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Giants entered the Interleague series finale 14 games under .500 on the road, but they owned a 5-5 record behind Cueto outside of AT&T Park.

View Full Game Coverage

However, Cueto's unavailability forced the Giants to replace him with right-hander Chris Stratton, who made his first Major League start. Though San Francisco's switch in starters was announced only about 20 minutes before the scheduled first pitch, Stratton performed capably under the circumstances, giving the Giants what they needed most in this situation: innings.

Stratton allowed five runs and six hits while walking five in 6 2/3 innings, enabling Giants manager Bruce Bochy to avoid depleting his bullpen. Nevertheless, the Giants lost two of three games to Detroit after sweeping Pittsburgh to finish with a 4-2 mark on this sojourn.

Video: SF@DET: Giants give an update on Cueto missing start

Both Cueto and Bochy expressed hope that the right-hander can pitch before the All-Star break -- that is, sometime during this weekend's home series against Miami.

Asked if he might have to go on the disabled list, Cueto eschewed the use of translator Erwin Higueros as he replied, "No."

Still, the interruption in Cueto's pitching regimen came at a crucial time, if the Giants are pondering sending him to another club by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Cueto can opt out of his contract and re-enter free agency after this season, prompting speculation that San Francisco might deal him to avoid the possibility of losing him and receiving nothing in return. But events such as Thursday's did nothing to increase his trade value, which is diminished to begin with due to his potential "rent-a-player" status.

Health has been an issue for Cueto this year. He began experiencing blisters on his pitching hand late in Spring Training. Until Thursday, he had not missed a start, though his overall statistics -- 6-7 with a 4.27 ERA in 17 outings -- pale beside the numbers he accumulated through the same stretch last year (12-1, 2.57 ERA).

Cueto related that he had felt flu-like symptoms during the previous three days and encountered dizziness as he prepared to warm up Thursday.

"I felt that it wasn't a good idea to continue getting ready and try to pitch when I was feeling dizzy," Cueto said. "I didn't want to fall down or something while in the game."

If anybody were to stumble, it would have been Stratton, the Giants' long reliever who stretched and threw with other members of the bullpen Thursday morning.

"It was definitely different," Stratton said of his sudden starting assignment. "But it's a dream come true to come out here and compete. I'm glad I gave our team the best chance I could to be in the game late."

Stratton, San Francisco's first-round selection in the 2012 Draft, made his third appearance in two stints this season with the Giants. He yielded five runs in the first three innings but blanked Detroit afterward.

Asked whether starting on such short notice might have limited his effectiveness at the outset, Stratton said, "I don't think so. I think they were just aggressive early [in the count] on some pitches."

Bochy appreciated the 26-year-old right-hander's effort.

"I give the kid credit," Bochy said. "Strat didn't let it get away and gave us some solid work there the last few innings and got us deep in the game."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.

San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton