Bruce Bochy spoke as if it were a long lost friend he were about to see again.
In a way, that’s what Johnny Cueto is.
“It’s going to be good to see him. It’s been a while,” Bochy said before the two-time All-Star and fan favorite took the mound for the first time in more than 13 months. “It’s going to be good to see Johnny out there doing his thing. We’ll have him somewhere around 70 pitches. I know he’s excited to be out there. I look forward to watching him.”
For Cueto, 410 days after Tommy John surgery, his comeback story wraps up at Oracle Park against the Pirates. He slides into a rotation that has dearly missed him, among the majors’ worst on a team no longer playing for the playoffs.
But Cueto (and Bochy) has said gaining confidence at this season’s conclusion would help for next year. And beyond what Cueto brings to the results, winning-and-losing business, he also is theater — for both fans and players — with his different arm slots, quick pitches and general cunning.
“Players appreciate other players’ talent,” Bochy said of Cueto, 33, who last pitched July 28 of last year. “… He’s so entertaining, [it’s] an aspect to his game. That’s who he is. He likes the game. He’s got great focus, too. What’s incredible with all the twists and turns and quick pitches is remarkable control. That’s where his focus is, and the other part is it becomes second-nature to him. That’s what you appreciate.”
🚨Johnny Cueto night 🚨
— KNBR (@KNBR) September 10, 2019
Cueto will take on a Pittsburgh team he had dominated throughout his career, entering with a 20-4 record and 2.19 ERA in 30 starts. No. 31 will be a different one, though, for a pitcher who came through surgery mostly setback-free.
“When you watch him, he’s an artist, [he’s] done it so long and worked so hard at it,” Bochy said. “It’s not about getting attention as much as getting outs.”
At 70 pitches, the Giants hope he’ll be able to get around 15-18 outs. And many more after that for a righty signed through at least 2021 and who has said he wants to pitch for another five-six years.