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Cueto, Samardzija nearing final rehab outings

Special to MLB.com

PHOENIX -- The Giants are close to adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to a rotation that has kept the Giants in contention despite receiving only 18 of 82 starts from the expected top three this season.

Cueto is slated to make a rehabilitation start at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, his second rehab outing, and manager Bruce Bochy left open the possibility that Cueto could make his next appearance in the Majors, as Cueto has said he would like.

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PHOENIX -- The Giants are close to adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to a rotation that has kept the Giants in contention despite receiving only 18 of 82 starts from the expected top three this season.

Cueto is slated to make a rehabilitation start at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, his second rehab outing, and manager Bruce Bochy left open the possibility that Cueto could make his next appearance in the Majors, as Cueto has said he would like.

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Samardzija will make his final rehab start Monday, with a likely return to the rotation the following weekend when St. Louis visits AT&T Park in a four-game series that begins Thursday.

"We'll evaluate his work and see how he comes out of it," Bochy said of Cueto, who is scheduled to throw about 70 pitches. "This is a bigger test. We'll see how he feels afterward. Forty, 45 pitches, you can get through that. Seventy, you better be in pretty good shape to throw 70 pitches in a competitive situation."

Cueto, who went on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation the first week of May, struck out four and gave up one hit in 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his first rehab start. He was 3-0 with an 0.84 ERA in five starts with the Giants before feeling discomfort in his elbow.

Samardzija, who opened the season on the disabled list with a pectoral injury and has been out since May 30 with a shoulder injury, will be making his fourth rehab start.

He gave up seven hits, including two homers, and six runs in four innings in his last appearance for Sacramento at Albuquerque, where the high altitude can skew the statistics in a hitter's favor.

"More than anything, he was just missing location," Bochy said. "It wasn't so much velocity. He gave up a couple of home runs. ... They were fly balls that probably wouldn't have been out."

That being said, both homers came in the first inning, when Samardzija gave up five runs, and the Giants will be paying particular attention to his early performance Monday.

"The first inning is a big inning," Bochy said. "He knows that's an area that he has to come out letting it go. That can determine the game, that first inning. The critical innings to me usually are the first, fifth and eighth innings. Now you look at the sixth, that seems to be a big one now."

Samardzija is 1-4 with a 6.56 ERA in eight starts for the Giants this season.

Video: SF@LAA: Samardzija K's four in first start of season

In the absence of Cueto and Samardzija, the Giants have received nice work from rookies Albert Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez. Suarez, promoted early, entered his Friday start in Arizona at 2-4 with a 4.43 ERA in 12 starts. Rodriguez, scheduled to start Saturday, is 2-1 with a 3.82 ERA in six appearances.

"These kids have done a nice job," Bochy said. "They've gotten better since they've been up here, too. That's what has to happen. To stay in it, you have to throw the ball well. Overall I think they've done a pretty good job."

The Giants could move one of the young starters to the bullpen after both Cueto and Samardzija rejoin the rotation.

"We're looking at everything," Bochy said. "When they come back, we'll look at all the options. We'll see where we are at at that point."

Jack Magruder is a contributor to MLB.com based in Phoenix.

San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija