12:30pm: Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets that Cueto’s timeline to return is actually six to eight weeks.
12:21pm: There’s been no shortage of worry over the status of Johnny Cueto’s elbow following last week’s placement on the DL and visit to multiple specialists, including Dr. James Andrews. FanRag’s Jon Heyman, however, tweets that the Giants received relatively good news on their righty. While Cueto has been diagnosed with a sprain in the elbow, he’s avoided a major tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. Dr. Andrews prescribed rest for Cueto, and he’s expected to miss six weeks of action, per Heyman.
Certainly, a six-week absence for Cueto, who stormed out of the gates hotter than almost any pitcher on the planet, is a critical blow for the Giants. But Cueto has obviously avoided a worst-case scenario by receiving a non-surgical treatment plan. With Cueto and Madison Bumgarner on the shelf for the time being, the Giants will continue to turn to Jeff Samardzija, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Derek Holland and Andrew Suarez in the rotation, with Tyler Beede waiting in the wings at Triple-A Sacramento should another need arise in the starting corps.
The 2017 season was one to forget for Cueto, who was limited to 147 2/3 innings by a flexor strain and struggled to a 4.52 ERA in that time. Last year’s struggles prompted Cueto to forgo the opt-out provision in his six-year deal with the Giants, and early on, it looked like a blessing in disguise for San Francisco. Cueto took the NL by storm in April, tossing 32 innings with a 0.84 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 45 percent ground-ball rate. He allowed just one homer in his 32 frames before landing on the DL with what was initially termed inflammation before an MRI and a series of evaluations.
San Francisco has remained afloat in the division with a 19-15 record, four games back from the Diamondbacks for the NL West lead, and just completed a sweep of an exciting young Braves team over the weekend. The loss of Cueto for an extended period will give the club a lengthy look at Suarez, who has admittedly been quite impressive in his first three starts as a big leaguer (3.06 ERA, 18-to-2 K/BB ratio, 53.3 percent ground-ball rate in 17 2/3 innings). The former second-round pick could position himself to seize a long-term starting job for the Giants if he continues at anywhere near that pace.