Cueto back, but as a member of the bullpen

July 14th, 2023

BALTIMORE -- The Marlins inked to a free agent contract this winter to provide veteran depth to their upstart rotation. But Cueto pitched only one inning for the club in the first half of 2023, and now is headed to the bullpen.

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said on Friday that Cueto would return to the active roster as a reliever, a few days after the club reinstated the veteran right-hander from the 60-day injured list.

“We'll see,” Schumaker said, when asked about Cueto’s role moving forward. “I don’t really have this set role for him. Whether it's going to be as the long guy or in middle relief, I’m not sure. We’ll carve out something. We’re trying to get him a softer landing spot to see where he’s at, and we’ll go from there.”

Cueto exited his Marlins debut on April 3 after just 30 pitches due to a biceps issue he dealt with on and off since Spring Training. While on his first rehab assignment for the biceps on May 6, he injured his left ankle attempting to cover first base. Cueto made six subsequent rehab starts, posting a 9.11 ERA across 26 2/3 frames.

Schumaker did not rule out the possibility of Cueto making starts for the team at some point down the stretch. But when Cueto returns to the mound in the short-term, he will be in relief.

“Anything can happen,” Schumaker said. “We didn’t envision a lot of our guys being on the IL. Stuff can definitely happen and he can definitely make a start somewhere down the road.”

A two-time All-Star, Cueto was one of the Majors’ best starters early in his career for the Reds, Royals and Giants, and enjoyed a bounceback season at age 36 last year with the White Sox. The 16-year veteran ranks among baseball’s active leaders in starts (8th), strikeouts (12th), wins (seventh) and innings (eighth).

Even with Cueto back in the fold, the Marlins are operating with two starters on the injured list in Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera, though Cabrera is likely to return soon after testing his right shoulder impingement in a five-inning simulated game during the All-Star break. Cabrera’s return would help fill the rotation behind Sandy Alcantara, Jesús Luzardo and Braxton Garrett, with swingman Bryan Hoeing in the mix as well. That mix does not include Cueto, at least for now.

“He’s built up, now we just need to see the production,” Schumaker said. “We’ll see what happens when he’s out there. We’re hoping when the lights turn on in a big league stadium, we’re going to see some really good results. He had a really good season last year. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t have a really good season last year.

“The last couple starts in the Minors were encouraging, in terms of his velocity being up and his stuff playing at a different level … just from speaking to the coaches down there, there is some encouraging results behind some of the pitch characteristic stuff we were looking for.”