SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Yet again, there was less Johnny Cueto to look at. He was down 20 pounds at this time last year, and he looked slightly trimmer at the first Giants workout for pitchers and catchers.
But there wasn’t that much less to look at.
“I feel like my arm is a baby,” Cueto said.
Still a full-grown man, Cueto is excited about how his arm is feeling. Cueto will be 35 on Friday and is now 18 months past Tommy John surgery, fresh off an offseason spent in the Dominican Republic — one such one he hadn’t experienced in a while.
“I felt normal,” Cueto said Wednesday through translator Erwin Higueros, “like nothing ever happened.”
Cueto will be relied upon heavily this season, one of two incumbents in the rotation — along with Jeff Samardzija — who hopes to anchor a staff filled with question marks.
No longer is Madison Bumgarner around to lean on and lean behind. A day prior, Samardzija said it would be an “honor” to fill the Opening Day spot usually reserved for the big lefty. Cueto downplayed the deeper meaning, saying, “Whatever the manager decides.”
Also like Samardzija, Cueto figures to be a prime trade candidate, due $42 million over the next two seasons on a team that isn’t likely to be in contention late this season. Whether the Giants view trading him as freeing up cash or bringing in prospects would of course depend on how he pitches.
Cueto made a fairly successful return last season, graduating through his rehab and throwing 10 straight scoreless innings in his first two September outings. He then struggled through his last pair of starts, allowing nine runs in six innings.
“First couple of times I felt normal,” Cueto said, looking back to 2019. “But then again, you still have it in your head, the pain, how you felt before. But thank God everything went well.”
Cueto did not throw in front of Gabe Kapler Wednesday, the two to begin their work on Thursday. In an offseason that included Kapler hopping around the continental US to visit players, Cueto has managed to stay away from baseball and the Giants this offseason, saying he was informed Kapler was the manager by his agent and he didn’t find out Bumgarner left until after it happened.
Cueto is his own man. With a baby arm he hopes will feel like new in 2020.