AT&T PARK — San Francisco Giants starter Johnny Cueto threw 40 pitches in a two-inning simulated game on Monday against Alen Hanson and Hunter Pence, which means he’s nearing a return to the battered Giants rotation.
“At this point, we’ll just see how he feels tomorrow,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “We’ll decide whether he needs another one, and then he’ll start a rehab. We’ll hold off before we determine that.”
Cueto had one of the best starts to the season of any pitcher in the National League before going down in late April due to elbow tenderness. Before he went to see Dr. James Andrews during the team’s trip to Atlanta, Cueto was 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA in five starts.
Andrews recommended a conservative course of treatment — meaning no Tommy John surgery — and on Monday, Cueto threw all of his pitches out of all of his various wind-ups, as well as the stretch. He said he should be able to return after getting two rehab starts under his belt.
Bochy said that targeting the end of June for Cueto’s return “might be cutting it a bit close,” but it’s in the ballpark for when he could come back. He will likely come back later.
“You don’t know; he could get on a fast pace here, and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Bochy said.
San Francisco’s No. 1 draft pick, Joey Bart, made his first visit to the Bay since being picked No. 2 overall in the Major League Draft. He got his Giants home jersey from general manager Bobby Evans, met Pablo Sandoval and got to chat with Buster Posey, the man who he may soon replace behind the plate.
“He was just talking about what he’s got going on today, talked a little bit about Mike Martin — I guess he announced today that it’s going to be his 40th season back at Florida State,” said Bart, who spent the last three years catching for Georgia Tech. “I have a lot of respect for that guy.”
While Bart is being tapped as the heir apparent to Posey, it was another big league catcher who initially schooled him on the finer points of donning the tools of ignorance. Bart was cut from the East Cobb Astros travel ball team at the age of 14, and joined up with the Georgia Roadrunners, which were being coached by former Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett.
“It was Michael Barrett’s first year as the coach out of the big leagues, and he poured a lot of knowledge into my mind about the mental side of the game,” Bart said. “He really turned it around. I was in between football and baseball then … after that, I really found a love for baseball, and it’s what I wanted to do full-time.”
He called his own pitches in high school, and last season, didn’t look over to the dugout once, as Yellow Jackets head coach Danny Hall gave him full autonomy to handle the staff. It’s one of the main reasons the Giants drafted Bart, although the fact that he banged a few homers off the top of Levi’s Landing during his pre-draft workout didn’t hurt.
The visit to San Francisco on Monday was Bart’s first since his pre-draft workout about three weeks ago. He came from Arizona, where he’s been working out at the Giants facility for the last couple days. He’ll get some at-bats at extended spring training, and then go to Salem, Ore., where he’ll play with the Salem-Keizer Volcanos in the short-season Northwest League.
During his conversation with Posey, Bart found out that Posey’s college roommate — Mark Halberg — will be on staff with the Volcanos.
Bart reportedly signed with the Giants for a $7.025 million signing bonus, according to Jim Callis of MLB.com. It would be the largest upfront bonus for a position player in the history of the Major League Draft.
“They ask me if it’s hit me yet, and now that I’m here, it’s really setting in,” Bart said. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. It worked out so great, going to school and getting my work there and getting a lot better and improving my game. Now, getting drafted by the Giants — a team I wanted to get drafted by the whole time — I’m blessed and I’m lucky that it worked out this way.
“You can’t choose who drafts you, but if I were to go and do it, this is the way I would have done it. I’m extremely lucky.”
Bart toured around the stadium for the few hours after he arrived early in the afternoon, and was much more comfortable, he said, once he got out into the dugout and on the field.
“I’d love to be out here as soon as possible,” he said. “I trust this staff that they’ll put me in the best position.”
He still has yet to ride BART.
“I think I’ll do that tomorrow,” he said.
Just as the Giants are closing in on getting Cueto back, as well as Jeff Samardzija — who threw a bullpen on Monday and will make a rehab start on Thursday in Sacramento — Evan Longoria is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday. He’s expected to miss six to eight weeks with a broken fifth metacarpal.
Giants senior athletic trainer Dave Groeschner will fly down on Monday night to be there for the surgery.
Though Longoria is down, he was hitting just .246. Having Brandon Belt (appendectomy) back has already given San Francisco a big boost, with a two-run homer to help the Giants avoid a sweep in Los Angeles on Sunday. Before he went down, Belt hit .314 in the month of May.
The day after his re-introduction, he’s feeling “great,” Bochy said.
“For him to hit a home run yesterday, off a lefty, oppo, is pretty impressive,” Bochy said. “It’s good to have him back, especially with the loss of Longo. It’d be nice to have everybody in the lineup now.”
Belt went down the same day that Joe Panik returned to the lineup, so the Giants still have yet to field their full projected lineup for any length of time this season. Though they wouldn’t have had Longoria back anyway, Brandon Crawford will be absent for the next three days due to the birth of his fourth child with wife Jalynne. The birth — a C-section — was scheduled in advance. He will return on Wednesday night.Brandon BeltBrandon CrawfordEvan LongoriaJeff SamardzijaJoey BartJohnny CuetoMLB