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Cueto indicates he'll bypass opt-out clause

Giants righty can become free agent this offseason
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Johnny Cueto issued his strongest indication yet that he will decline to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, thus prompting his return to the Giants next year.

Cueto, 31, said Monday that he never seriously considered walking away from the Giants and the six-year, $130 million deal he signed prior to the 2016 season. He hinted that the opt-out clause, which he must accept or ignore after this season, was self-descriptive: an option that he could seize upon if he felt that he could earn a higher salary if he re-entered free agency.

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SAN DIEGO -- Right-hander Johnny Cueto issued his strongest indication yet that he will decline to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, thus prompting his return to the Giants next year.

Cueto, 31, said Monday that he never seriously considered walking away from the Giants and the six-year, $130 million deal he signed prior to the 2016 season. He hinted that the opt-out clause, which he must accept or ignore after this season, was self-descriptive: an option that he could seize upon if he felt that he could earn a higher salary if he re-entered free agency.

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"The world turns, things happen and you never know," Cueto said.

However, he hastened to add that he "never thought" about opting out of his contract.

"The only thing I thought about was staying here with my teammates and letting things happen," Cueto said.

Blisters on Cueto's throwing hand and a strained right flexor tendon have limited him to a 6-7 record with a 4.59 ERA. That's nowhere close to last year, when Cueto posted an 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA and earned the honor of starting the All-Star Game for the National League.

Throughout all that, Cueto said, "My whole mentality has been for me to stay here. At the end of the season, I will talk to my agent. We'll make a decision. But when I signed with the team, it was to help the team win."

This year, Cueto added, "Things didn't go my way because I had blisters. In order not to hurt my blisters more, I ended up hurting my arm. Now I feel that I'm better. I don't have any decisions anymore."

It's logical to suggest that if Cueto plans on remaining a Giant, he must believe that they can regain their contender's status.

"I'm not going to predict what's going to happen next year," he said. "I do feel the team can win. But I guess the thing that we have to hope for is everybody is healthy enough to win."

That endeavor starts with Cueto. He made his final Minor League injury rehabilitation start Sunday at Class A Advanced San Jose, where he lasted 3 2/3 innings and yielded eight runs (five earned) on nine hits with four strikeouts against the Stockton Ports.

"The results weren't great, but more than anything, he feels great," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Cueto's 72-pitch outing.

Cueto will throw off a bullpen mound here at Petco Park either Tuesday or Wednesday, which will determine when he'll likely rejoin the starting rotation. Depending on how Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti set the schedule, Cueto could make as many as five starts before the season ends.

"I just want to finish strong," he said.

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.

San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto