Johnny Cueto will not pitch in the first round of the World Baseball Classic. Considering that the WBC starts next week, and Cueto is finally expected to arrive in camp on Friday, this was an expected development. There just isn’t enough time for him to get ready after spending extra time in the Dominican Republic, waiting for a visa for his ailing father, even though he was throwing regular bullpen sessions.
Cueto’s delayed arrival was never an ominous story, considering the regular season is still a month away. There’s more than enough time for him to get into regular season form. Hopefully, though, that process is slow and steady, ramping up to the adrenaline of real games.
Which is to say, please, no:
With Johnny Cueto unable to pitch in 1st round, per @JesseSanchezMLB, 1 option for D.R. is to move him to DPP list and activate him later.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 3, 2017
When Cueto announced that he was participating in the WBC, I had the same reaction most of you probably did: a nervous wide-eyed grin as I muttered, “Ha ha, uh, really? Sure, great, grand, okay” through gritted teeth. I don’t begrudge anyone from participating in the WBC and showing off their national pride. It’s just that pitchers are finely tuned sports cars, and an extra month of meaningful games are giant sand dunes for them to speed through. You want to avoid it if you can.
Buster Posey catching more innings than he might have in a typical March? Not wild about it, but I can’t get too mad about it. Brandon Crawford leaving the team to share his locks and glove with the world? Exciting! A pitcher, though, gives me the willies, especially one who’s as crucial to his team’s hopes as Cueto.
This was all before he missed two weeks of camp, mind you.
There’s no confirmation that Cueto will sneak into later rounds if the Dominican Republic advances, just that note from Morosi about how it could happen. I think I speak for all Giants fans, and probably the organization, too, when I express a deepest desire for Cueto to skip the ahead-of-schedule adrenaline and meaningful games.
The reward is for Cueto to help his team and countrymen to a coveted World Baseball Classic championship, following in the footsteps of Team in 2013 and Other Team the time before that.
The risk is ... well, everything. Any exhibition appearance is a risk for every pitcher -- Cueto could have been hurt in last year’s All-Star Game, after all -- but there’s something about the timing of the WBC that makes any pitcher’s participation seem extra ominous.
If Cueto does pitch, fine, I’ll watch and cheer him on. It probably isn’t a huge deal. But what was already a dicey proposition before pitchers and catchers reported is an even dicier proposition now. Here’s hoping he sits the whole thing out.