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San Francisco Giants: Johnny Cueto to avoid Tommy John surgery, Bochy says

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Johnny Cueto will not have to have surgery, according to Bruce Bochy. (K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — After several consultations, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto will not have to undergo Tommy John surgery, manager Bruce Bochy said on Monday.

“It’s great news,” Bochy said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping for the best—that he wouldn’t need surgery. I was always mentioning rehab. That’s the way I was going, so that’s what’s happening now.”

Cueto, who was diagnosed with an elbow sprain by renowned Tommy John surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. on Monday, likely won’t pick up a baseball for two weeks, but the news is arguably the best the Giants could have hoped for. Instead of surgery, Andrews recommended strengthening the ligament through rehabilitation, a process which could take six to eight weeks.

Before he was placed on the disabled list last Tuesday, the 32-year old righty went 3-0 with a 0.84 earned run average in five starts, striking out 26 in 32.0 innings of work.

“It’s incredible how he was competing with the elbow soreness,” Bochy said. “There was nobody throwing the ball better than him in baseball. It says a lot about his toughness. He wanted to pitch in Atlanta, but we didn’t want him to do that. He’s ecstatic that he won’t have to go through the long ordeal of Tommy John surgery.”

That said, strengthing the ligament may not be a long-term solution, and pitchers who have gone that route have had to get the full Tommy John ulnar-collateral ligament reconstructive surgery eventually.

With starter Madison Bumgarner also set to come back from surgery on a broken pinky finger, the Giants could conceivably get him back at the start of June, and then Cueto less than a month later.

Meanwhile, outfielder Mac Williamson — on the concussion disabled list — flew up to Pittsburgh to be evaluated in what the Giants expect to be a pro-forma approval of his return to play.

In Sacramento, outfielder Hunter Pence’s thumb has begun to bother him again, so his rehab will be paused.

“We’ve been hit as hard as anybody [with injuries],” said Bochy, who also lost second baseman Joe Panik to thumb surgery on April 30. Panik will be out another five to seven weeks. “It comes down to depth in your organization. Our guys have done a great job, and that’s what it’s going to take until everybody’s healthy. In order to have a good year, you want to stay as healthy as you can, but you need a nice surprise or two, and depth in your system. Right now it’s working for us.”

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