SAN DIEGO -- Johnny Cueto didn't travel with the Giants when they flew down to San Diego to face the Padres. It now could be over a year before he's back on the field with them.
After months of speculation, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged Monday that surgery is the likely next step for Cueto, who was put back on the disabled list in the afternoon with a right elbow sprain.
"I think it's fair to say there's a strong possibility of having surgery," Bochy said. "It's been lingering quite a while. We battled it and fought this elbow issue and had it looked at, and it's just not going away."
Cueto was shut down at the end of a spectacular April and had his elbow examined by several specialists. At the time, Dr. James Andrews told Cueto that he could rest and return to the mound without surgery. But after missing 61 games, Cueto returned as a shell of his old self. He gave up 16 runs in four starts back and his velocity was noticeably down, with his fastball often sitting in the 86-87 mph range. The Giants pulled Cueto after just four innings Saturday night and he admitted afterward that he felt pain every time he was on the mound.
"I keep telling you guys and keep telling myself I'm fine, but in reality, I'm not," Cueto said Saturday.
If Cueto does indeed have surgery this week or next, he would miss the remainder of this season as well as the majority of the 2019 season. It's possible Cueto could return next August or September.
The 32-year-old dealt with right flexor discomfort last season but returned to pitch down the stretch. He did not take the opt-out in his contract after the season, and in April, that looked like the best thing that happened to the Giants in 2017. In five starts, Cueto had an MLB-leading 0.84 ERA. His elbow wouldn't hold up, though.