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Giants have sensible replacement and concerns if Johnny Cueto misses time



Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Gabe Kapler and the Giants coaches in his dugout had visions of “another deep-into-the-game, Johnny Cueto start” as the righty, whose pitching style borders on artistic, danced through the Reds lineup.

The visions turned far darker on pitch 68.

Cueto felt his lat tighten and immediately gestured toward the dugout, with trainer Dave Groeschner running out and then walking back with the starter toward the trainer’s room. Cueto will get scanned, and the Giants will know more soon about what they are terming a tight lat.

“If he has to miss some time, those are shoes that are going to be difficult to fill,” Kapler said after the Giants’ 3-0, homestand-finishing win over the Reds. “We’ll do what we always do, which is step up for each other.”

The logical step up is Logan Webb, who has not even had time to step back. Kapler informed the 24-year-old Tuesday night he would be shifted to the bullpen to make room for Alex Wood, who is set to make his Giants debut Sunday in Miami. Webb threw a clean inning out of relief Wednesday and could now rejoin the rotation before he left it if the news is not good for Cueto.

They were not going to use Webb in the middle of an inning.

“We knew that we were going to potentially lean on him for multiple innings in Miami, and now who knows if it turns out that he needs to hop back in the starting rotation,” Kapler said. “We have that flexibility now because he only went one inning.”

Kapler believed Cueto felt something on pitch 67, then felt it more acutely on pitch 68. Curt Casali, Cueto’s catcher, thought he may have felt something earlier in the game. Either way, once Cueto felt it sharply, he didn’t throw another pitch.

He lasted 5 2/3 innings in which he struck out four and allowed no runs or walks on three hits. Casali didn’t believe Cueto had his best stuff — he induced seven swings and misses, a bit down — and yet was still remarkable.

The 35-year-old has looked more like the 25-year-old version of himself who pitched for the Reds. He hopes the final pitch he made to the Reds’ Nick Castellanos, a swinging strike three, will be forgotten quickly.

Tyler Rogers made his league-leading eighth appearance in 12 games a season after he led the NL by appearing in 29 games.

Kapler believes his submarine style — he only cracks 80 mph with his fastball and has a 72-mph slider — helps make him more durable.

The manager still said he has to be careful about overusing the righty, but with his looseness and delivery, it should be easier for him to hold up

“I feel pretty confidently he’s the kind of guy that bounces back and doesn’t get worn down as easily as say, a high-velocity, max-effort guy,” Kapler said of Rogers, who lowered his ERA to 1.13 with a scoreless eighth.

There also will be usage concerns with Jake McGee, one of those high-velocity guys, who notched his league-leading sixth save.

“Both of those guys are on pace to pitch a lot of baseball games,” Kapler said, correctly. “I was talking to McGee on the way up and said, ‘The only way we can get you an off day is by actually having an off day.’ So tomorrow will be good for him and good for Rog.”

With Austin Slater on third in the fifth, third-base coach Ron Wotus approached Kapler and said a contact play — Slater running once Casali made contact — would be the best bet.

They put it on, and the speedy Slater scored on a ground ball to third, sliding just under catcher Tyler Stephenson’s tag, for a 2-0 lead.

Kapler called it the “biggest play in the game” and wanted to ensure Wotus got the credit.

There was an announced crowd of 6,409, closer to the weekend numbers after Monday and Tuesday had sliced that number in half. It is easier to get fans to the ballparks on weekends and day games.