Notes: Cueto to 'pen; Wild Card contingency

October 1st, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- is entering uncharted territory. 

As Cueto came off the injured list on Thursday, manager Gabe Kapler said the right-hander will join the bullpen, a role he has never filled in his 14-year career. 

“Sat down with Johnny, myself and [pitching coach Andrew Bailey] and discussed being ready for any role out of the ’pen,” Kapler said. “He’s ready to go and going to fit right in for us.”

Cueto’s 337 career appearances, including the postseason, have all come as a starter.

Cueto, who had been sidelined with a right elbow strain, noted that he feels 100%. He said the coaching staff will give him more time to warm up as he adjusts to the new role. Whether Cueto pitches on back-to-back days remains to be seen and will hinge on how well he feels after a relief appearance.

Cueto, 35, conceded that while he’s happy to return from the IL, he said via interpreter Erwin Higueros that he is also, “a little bit nervous, concerned, a little bit uncomfortable because I haven’t pitched out of the bullpen before.

“There’s a challenge. Just like asking [Evan] Longoria to play left field. You have to adapt. You have to get used to it. So that’s the same thing with me.”

Cueto will lean not only on his pitching coach, Bailey, but veteran reliever . The southpaw was placed on the 10-day IL on Thursday because of a left shoulder strain (retroactive to Wednesday) and likely will miss the early portion of the postseason. Still, Watson will be a resource for Cueto and the bullpen as a whole.

“I think Tony Watson is dedicated to continuing to build the camaraderie in the bullpen for us and be around and help from an experience standpoint, and also from an uplifting emotional standpoint,” Kapler said.

With Watson and on the injured list, Kapler said will be a left-handed option in late-inning, high-leverage situations. Kapler also noted fellow southpaw could be an option.

Gausman likely won’t pitch Wild Card Game
If the Giants were to end up playing in an all-or-nothing National League Wild Card Game, likely won’t be starting.

Kapler announced that Gausman, who last pitched on Sunday, will receive an extra day of rest and pitch the penultimate game of the regular season on Saturday, effectively eliminating him from starting in a potential Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

With scheduled to pitch on Sunday, that leaves , Friday’s scheduled starter, or , who last pitched on Wednesday, as the most likely starters for a Wild Card Game, if the Giants don’t win the NL West title.

“We’ve got some strategy options in that way,” Kapler said, “but I don’t really want this to be about anything but what it is, which is getting the best version of those three pitchers [DeSclafani, Gausman and Webb] over the course of the next three games, knowing that so much is at stake.

“We’re putting a lot of emphasis on winning tonight and the next day and the next day first.”