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Ayer de Cueto

Johnny Cueto made his first rehab start last night since a torn right elbow sent him to the disabled list on May 1st.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Johnny Cueto’s barking elbow has been a noise nuisance for years now and the medical opinion has to this point simply been a matter of rest. That doesn’t make it any less scary for a team paying out millions of dollars to the elbow-haver or to the fans who root for the elbow, but it doesn’t snuff out all hope, either.

Last night, Cueto fanned that faint flame of hope in Sacramento with his first rehab outing since the elbow howled at the moon. The plan was for him to throw 40 pitches, which meant he needed to show quality stuff in a short span of time.

The strikeout came on 3 pitches. Although MiLB.com can’t give me pitch speeds or types, it does give location (which might not be accurate either, but I’ll take what I can get):

Let’s just imagine that was a two-seamer, a slider, and a changeup. Tested all his pitches on leadoff hitter Forrestt Allday, which is an actual person’s name and not a computer-generated character in my Baseball Mogul sim. The name makes even more sense when you realize that the River Cats hosted the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Forrestt Allday is the team captain as soon as he makes it to the major leagues.

Meanwhile,

An aside: I gotta tell you, this image really f***ing pumps me up. I want that $20 food credit and it looks like Johnny Cueto does, too. If I lived anywhere close to Sacramento, I {sees the temperature at first pitch was 99 degrees} never mind.

Cueto struck out the next batter, second baseman Luis Urías, and was perfect in the game until he faced Urías again in the top of the 4th and gave up a single. He struck out the next batter, Franmil Reyes, on 7 pitches, and was pulled from the game after exceeding his 40 pitch limit (48 for the game).

Love to see minor league managers futzing around with $20 million starting pitchers who are rehabbing a serious elbow injury by letting them blow past a pitch limit to possibly finish an inning. I’m sure everything Sacramento’s Dave Brundage and Steve Kline did tonight was in consultation with the Giants and well within their realm of experience, but I wonder if gaining confidence from one extra strikeout outweighed the risk of setting back Cueto’s rehab.

Eh. Who cares? It’s just baseball. Let ‘em go and see what happens. And look at how damn cool he looked out there:

He’ll pitch at least two more rehab outings before the Giants consider calling him up, which means if all goes well, the earliest he could return is July 1st. The Giants will be in Arizona that day (a Sunday) before jetting off to Colorado for a 3-game series. So, although that’s earliest he could return, the Giants’ 10-game homestand beginning on July 5th against the Cardinals feels like when he will actually return.

That would mean the Giants would get two good looks at him against quality opposition (the Cardinals and the Cubs) right before the All-Star break. Even they delayed his return a little longer, the A’s would follow Chicago.

That’s important because if they’re still hovering in either direction around the .500 mark, they’re going to make a move. Cueto’s presence firms up trade plans. Baseball doesn’t provide much certainty, but a healthyish Cueto will give the Giants more than they had before.