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Cueto 'anxious' to return to Giants' rotation

Right-hander will likely make one more rehab start before joining team
Special to MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Right-hander Johnny Cueto is getting closer to returning to the Giants' rotation, and he is eager to finish what has been a disappointing season on a positive note.

One day after throwing 47 pitches over three scoreless innings for Triple-A Sacramento in his first rehab start, Cueto talked optimistically about rejoining the Giants soon.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Right-hander Johnny Cueto is getting closer to returning to the Giants' rotation, and he is eager to finish what has been a disappointing season on a positive note.

One day after throwing 47 pitches over three scoreless innings for Triple-A Sacramento in his first rehab start, Cueto talked optimistically about rejoining the Giants soon.

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"I'm anxious," Cueto said Wednesday through an interpreter prior to San Francisco's series finale against the Brewers. "It's been a rough year, and I just want to go out there and start pitching."

Cueto played catch in the outfield before the game Wednesday, and he showed no lingering effects from the flexor tendon strain that has hindered him for three weeks. Cueto initially went on the disabled list July 15 due to blisters on multiple fingers of his pitching hand.

On Wednesday in Sacramento, Cueto allowed three hits and had one strikeout. Of the 47 pitches he threw, 32 were for strikes.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Cueto will likely make one more rehab start in the Minors before rejoining the team.

"I think that's the plan," Bochy said. "You always wait until the next day to see how he comes out of it. I haven't had a chance to talk to him, but when I get in there, we'll get with Dave Groeschner, our trainer, and get the next start down and his plan, how far he's going to go and when we'll put him in the rotation."

Cueto is 6-7 with a 4.59 ERA in 19 starts this season after going 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 2016.

The 31-year-old is in the second year of a six-year, $130 million deal, but he can opt out of the deal and become a free agent after this season. Cueto isn't thinking about that just yet, though. He has goals for the remainder of the year, and he will make that decision in the offseason.

"I just want to finish the year, go home, be healthy, have my head up and start thinking for next year," Cueto said.

Bochy sounded optimistic that Cueto will be in a Giants uniform in 2018.

"I stay on the positive side," Bochy said. "He's got that choice, but right now he's with us, and until I hear different, I plan on him being with us."

That being the case, Bochy said the plan for Cueto for the rest of the year is fairly simple.

"Just be a healthy Johnny, just be who he is," Bochy said. "We're not going to grind him out in these games. Get him back on track as far as command, stuff, all those things. So as we go into next year, he'll have a good feel about where he's at and the finger issue's behind him, all the issues, and he's ready to go."

Injury report

• Right fielder Hunter Pence was not in the Giants' starting lineup for a second straight day because of tightness in his left hamstring. Pence was a late scratch Tuesday, but he appeared as a pinch-hitter and drew a walk.

Michael Wagaman is a contributor to MLB.com based in the Bay Area.

San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto