After over a year of rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, Johnny Cueto is set to return to the Giants. Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group was among those to report the news that Cueto is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Pirates, which will mark Cueto’s first Major League outing since July 28, 2018.
The usual 12-15 month timeline associated with Tommy John recovery created doubt that Cueto would be back before the 2020 season, and despite a minor back injury that it now seems will delay his return by a few days, Cueto will now get a chance to work off the rust over at least a few outings in September. If all goes well, Cueto (who turns 34 in February) should be ready to hit the ground running come Opening Day.
After signing a six-year, $130MM deal with San Francisco in the 2015-16 offseason, Cueto delivered an outstanding 2016 campaign before blisters and a flexor strain contributed to a disappointing 2017. It seemed as if Cueto was back on track in nine 2018 starts prior to his surgery, though it remains to be seen if Cueto can truly regain his past form — it isn’t surprising to see any pitcher decline in his age-34 season, even if that pitcher isn’t coming off a major arm surgery.
The Giants could potentially lose Madison Bumgarner in free agency this offseason, leaving Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as the prohibitive top two in San Francisco’s rotation. Even if Samardzija isn’t traded, there is still a lot of uncertainty within the starting five, as younger arms like Shaun Anderson, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Beede, and Logan Webb have all struggled this year. A healthy Cueto provides at least some stability as the club will have to decide what they have with their internal options, and weigh how to much to spend on veteran starters over the winter.