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Johnny Cueto’s season that never was

Cueto started off the year in dominant fashion, but his season was short lived and bitter sweet.

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

STAT LINE: 9 GS, Team record in starts: 5-4, 3.23 ERA / 1.113 WHIP

ROLE ON THE 2018 TEAM: Johnny Cueto was the ace the team needed early in the year, after Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija started the season on the disabled list. And he did so admirably, allowing just three total earned runs in his first five starts. The last of which was the second half of the infamous double header (the winning half) in which the Giants beat the Dodgers 8-3 (after losing to them in the first game in such spectacular fashion that it necessitated a brilliant relief pitching performance from Pablo Sandoval).

Three days later, on May 1st, Cueto was surprisingly placed on the 10-day disabled list after it was announced that he’d been dealing with elbow inflammation in his last two starts. This was followed by a period of secrecy from the organization and Cueto himself while he sought second and third opinions. Ultimately, it was decided that Cueto should rest his arm. He remained on the DL until July 5th.

His first stretch of games (before we knew he was pitching injured) almost seemed like a fluke after his July return. The Giants won all but one of those games, and the one they lost was a 1-0 loss in which Cueto only allowed two hits, a game that was ultimately lost by the bullpen.

His last four games? Yeah....not great, Bob. Cueto gave up three or more runs in each, and allowed six or more hits per game. He was obviously still hurting and it was only a matter of time before the news we all initially feared came out.

Cueto was placed back on the DL on July 30th, two days after his final start of the season. Three days after that, his season was done as he underwent Tommy John surgery.

ROLE ON THE 2019 TEAM: Not applicable. Cueto is almost assuredly going to miss the entire 2019 season as he continues to recover.

GRADE: Incomplete.

Obviously injuries are something that cannot be controlled or planned for. Would it have been better if he’d undergone the surgery in May when the problem first arose? Maybe. But it was clear that he was trying to avoid surgery altogether (thus the many second opinions he sought), so resting like he did seemed like the optimistic choice. Ultimately, it was unavoidable. And his promising start to the season ended up being a brief flicker of hope in a dismal season.

We’ll always have the hats, though.