Giants’ Johnny Cueto throws five shutout innings during first MLB game in more than a year

While much of the baseball world focused on Christian Yelich’s season-ending injury on Tuesday night, there were other developments worth highlighting. One came on the west coast, where San Francisco Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto made his first big-league appearance since July 28, 2018, and since subsequently undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Cueto pitched well against a familiar foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates, holding them to a hit and a walk over five innings of work. He struck out four batters, and delivered a strike on 43 of his 69 pitches — or 62 percent overall. Additionally, he shook, he rattled, he rolled:

There’s no sense making a mountain out of one start, but Cueto checked the boxes on a more granular level as well. For example, his four-seam fastball averaged 91.3 mph, the same as in 2017. Last season, Cueto’s fastball averaged just 89.8 mph, according to Statcast. He also threw more sliders than any other pitch on the night (33 percent of his overall offerings), suggesting he has no reservations concerning elbow torque or anything of that nature.

All of this seems like good news for Cueto and for the Giants, who will pay him nearly $49 million (including a buyout on his club option) over the next two seasons. The Giants may or may not be competitive during that timeframe — Farhan Zaidi would seem to have his work cut out for him retooling the roster — but Cueto re-establishing himself would be a positive, whether it’s to help fuel a playoff run or to make himself more attractive to contenders.

With Tuesday’s start, Cueto now has a 122 ERA+ in 293 career starts. He’s accumulated 1,845 innings across those appearances, and has nearly three strikeouts for every walk issued. 

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