Giants

After missing out on WBC, Cueto dominates White Sox

After missing out on WBC, Cueto dominates White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Johnny Cueto spent the offseason preparing to join the Dominican Republic’s team for the World Baseball Classic, and when his father’s illness kept him out of the early rounds, he spent his first two weeks in Giants camp getting ready to pitch a semifinal game. 

Team USA made sure Cueto wouldn’t get that shot with a knockout win on Saturday, but just in case there was any doubt, Cueto showed Monday that he was physically ready to represent his country. Instead of facing Japan at Dodger Stadium, he dominated the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Cueto gave up just one hit and one run over five innings, striking out three. 

"What a great job he did mixing it up," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's on schedule. He came in late, but he's right on schedule."

Cueto bunny-hopped off the mound when his day was done, and he smiled and high-fived fans down the left-field line as he headed to the clubhouse. He said he “feels really good.”

“The plan now is just to continue working the same way I’ve been doing, working on my sinker, my cutter, slider, everything,” he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “I’m getting close. As I pitch more and more, I think I’m getting ready.”

Cueto went 18-5 in his first year in San Francisco and posted a 2.79 ERA. While that’s a lofty standard, it wouldn’t be crazy for the Giants to expect even more. Last spring, Cueto slow-played his workouts because he was coming off a World Series run with the Royals. Before his second year in San Francisco, he ramped things up, getting in shape earlier because of the possibility of the WBC. 

“That was the plan,” he said. “I wanted to get ready for the Classic. That’s over, but now I can continue working.”

The work Monday was easy. Cueto retired the first nine hitters he faced before a Peter Bourjos leadoff triple in the fourth. Even that play showed Cueto is in the right frame of mind, as he alertly backed up third and kept a Gordon Beckham relay throw from sailing into the stands. 

While Cueto has pitched just 10 2/3 innings this spring, Bochy believes he’ll be ready to rock for the second game of the season. Monday’s outing backed that up, but it also left onlookers wondering what could have been. How would Cueto have fared against Japan?

“You can never tell, right?” he said. “But I do know I was going to go crazy out there and play with them and pitch the way I’m going to pitch.”

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

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AP

Matt Moore blanks Rockies, continues late-season surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore knew there was something different about his final home start at AT&T Park this season, and not just the fact that he received a loud ovation as he walked off the mound in the seventh. Moore noted later that the outing was the first shutout he has been a part of this year. In fact, it was the first time in 30 starts that he walked off the mound without having allowed a run. 

“I guess it’s better late than never,” he said. 

The Giants are hoping it’s actually a preview of things to come. They counted on Moore to be a big part of their 2017 push, but instead, he likely will finish with the worst ERA of any full-time starter in the National League. Still, general manager Bobby Evans has informed Moore that his 2018 option will be picked up, something that Moore appreciated given the time of year. 

“I always pictured myself here,” he said. 

Whether coincidence or some kind of “weight off the shoulders” situation, Moore’s first start since the public revealing of the decision was his most encouraging of the year. Facing a good lineup, and a team that needed a win desperately, he pitched six shutout innings. The Giants beat the Rockies 4-0. 

Moore was already showing signs of life, with a 3.76 ERA over his seven previous appearances. Bruce Bochy viewed this as another step forward. 

“It’s been getting better and better with each start,” he said. “What he did really well today was on the arm side. He had good balance to both sides of the plate.”

Moore peppered the outside corner with fastballs, and he credited catcher Nick Hundley with stealing a few strikes. The plan allowed Moore to put hitters away in big spots, one of three points of emphasis he brought into the second half. The other two: limiting lefties and getting ahead of hitters.

That’s Moore’s roadmap back to being the player the Giants acquired. For the team as a whole, the roadmap back to relevance is similar to Wednesday’s plan. This is not a home-run hitting lineup, but the Giants are 47-21 when scoring four runs, and Wednesday was a reminder of the different paths to that magical number. 

Brandon Crawford had a solo homer, but the first two runs came on sacrifice flies and the fourth on a walk-wild pitch-single combination. Bochy said he liked “the brand of ball” his team played.

“They executed so well today,” he said. “It’s just good baseball, and that’s what I felt good about.”

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

Doing due diligence, Giants send Evans, Shelley to scout Shohei Otani in Japan

SAN FRANCISCO — A couple of weeks ago, a Giants official expressed amazement about how little was known about the desires of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani.

“Teams know just about as much as you guys (in the media),” he said. 

The Giants are hoping that changes this week. General manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley have traveled to Japan to take a look at the 23-year-old, who reportedly will come over to play in Major League Baseball next season. 

“There’s going to be a lot of attention on him and it’s part of the scouting process every club goes through,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s doing our due diligence, as you say.”

Otani is a rare prospect, a potential ace on the mound and lineup-altering bat in the outfield. He has 47 homers in just over 1,000 professional at-bats, and this season he’s batting .341. As a hard-throwing pitcher with a wipeout breaking ball, Otani has a 2.57 career ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He had a 1.86 ERA last season with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. 

Because he’s said to be coming over at such a young age, Otani will sacrifice the chance to sign a massive contract. The CBA limits him to collecting money from a team’s international bonus pool, and the Giants are limited to $300,000. Still, some other big-market teams are in the same boat, and despite their lack of pool money and poor season, the Giants surely believe they have plenty to offer. 

It’s not known what Otani is looking for, but perhaps he wants to play in a big city to make up some of his lost earnings? Perhaps he wants to play on the West Coast, closer to his home country, or in a region with a big Japanese population? Perhaps he’s just a big Buster Posey fan? The Giants intend to find out, and to be in the bidding. 

It’s possible that Otani has seen the way Bochy uses Madison Bumgarner as a pinch-hitter, but Bochy said he can’t imagine using a true two-way player. 

“I don’t think it would work,” he said. “You’re talking more of something that might work in the American League. That’s a lot of throwing and wear-and-tear.”