Posted on May 2, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

San Francisco Giants Johnny Cueto

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Johnny Cueto has undoubtedly been the best pitcher in baseball this season. Unfortunately for the San Francisco Giants, his brilliant season has been interrupted by injury for the second time. The Giants placed Cueto on the 10-day DL Tuesday because of inflammation in his elbow. He previously missed time with a sprained ankle. But this time, his DL stint could be a little more serious.

“Obviously, it’s not good news when you have to put him on the DL,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday. “There’s been nobody in the game who’s been pitching better.”

Cueto last pitched on Saturday, earning his third win of the season in a start against the Dodgers. While it was technically his worst start of the season, giving up two runs over six innings, Cueto appeared to be fine physically. On the season, Cueto is 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA over 32 innings of work.

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Giants GM Bobby Evans says Cueto has been dealing with inflammation in his elbow for his past couple of starts. However, the club won’t know more until Cueto undergoes an MRI.

“We are getting our heads wrapped around it now,” says Evans. “We’re still trying to understand where he’s at.”

Losing Cueto to the DL for the second time just adds to San Francisco’s injury problems this season, particularly on the mound. Ace Madison Bumgarner has missed the entire season after breaking his hand during spring training. Closer Mark Melancon is also yet to pitch this season because of a flexor strain. Jeff Samardzija also missed the early part of the season and owns a 5.27 ERA after his first three starts of the season.

Amidst all the injuries, Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been forced to become permanent members of the San Francisco rotation. The Giants have also used prospects Andrew Suarez and Tyler Beede for multiple starts. Somehow, they’ve managed to start the season 15-15 over their first 30 games. However, they began Wednesday 6.5 games out of first place in the NL West.

The good news for the Giants is that Bumgarner finally appears to be on his way back. Bumgarner saw a hand specialist on Tuesday and has been cleared to resume throwing this weekend. However, Bumgarner’s return is far from imminent. He is expected to throw on flat ground three or four times before he throws off a mound. The lefty will essentially need to repeat his spring training routine before he’s ready to come off the DL.

“He’s a smart kid, and he’s not a kid,” Bochy said of Bumgarner. “He knows he has to go through like a spring training. You can’t rush this too much, as much as he wants to get back.”

With Bumgarner presumably a few weeks from returning and Cueto’s status unknown, the Giants once again find themselves in a difficult position. Their pitching staff has no obvious ace and no obvious leader to step up and guide them through a sea of injuries. To be fair, the Giants have done a nice job of treading water the first month of the seasson. But they’ll have to find a way to keep their ahead above water a little bit longer.

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