Could Johnny Cueto Return Early to Help Scuffling Giants Rotation?

PHOENIX -- The recovery process from Tommy John surgery is long and tedious and unbelievably mapped out on a daily basis, and from the start, Johnny Cueto has targeted Sept. 1 as a potential return date. 

The Giants are still expecting to see Cueto on the mound in the first week of September, but there's another camp forming within the organization, one hoping to operate with a bit more urgency. The Giants originally had Cueto scheduled for two rehab starts with San Jose and two with Sacramento, but they have discussed internally the possibility of having Cueto get up to speed in big league games. 

The thinking here is simple: Cueto is healthy and looks great every time he throws, and even if he's only able to give Bruce Bochy four or five innings, they still likely would be more effective than what young starters have contributed in recent weeks. Those young starters aren't getting deep, either. Bochy said the Giants would continue to discuss it as Cueto works through the rehab process. He'll make his first appearance for San Jose on Thursday. 

"We can reevaluate our thinking with the medical staff and see where we're at with him," Bochy said. "He's pretty close to 100 percent. He doesn't have strength and stamina to go deep into games. But you look at the stuff, it's good. It's really good. He just doesn't have stamina. He's in spring training mode."

A lot of this will depend on what kind of competitive mode the Giants are in. If they find themselves falling out of the wild-card race as Cueto works his way through the California League, it won't make any sense. But if the Giants are still close in a couple of weeks and still having issues with their young starters, the drumbeat to bring Cueto back a start or two early will grow louder. 

--- Speaking of the bullpen, lefty Fernando Abad is the latest to join. The veteran has had a good year in Sacramento and is throwing a ton of strikes. That should make Bochy's life a bit easier. 

The series of transactions sent Williams Jerez and Aramis Garcia back to Sacramento. The Giants also DFA'd Ryan Barraclough, claimed last week. As they did with Ryan Dull, the Giants hoped to get Barraclough into the organization and get him through waivers if they needed a roster spot. We'll see if he does. Dull was claimed by the Yankees.

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