Johnny Cueto will be out at least six weeks, and Giants fans breathe sigh of relief

Johnny Cueto

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, March 30, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The second opinion Johnny Cueto went to get on Monday on his elbow wasn’t nearly as bad as most San Francisco Giants thought it would be.

And who could blame them?

Normally when a player goes to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, it almost always comes back “Yep, you need surgery.”

But that’s not what Andrews said on Monday.

Cueto, the Giants’ ace of 2018 so far, was diagnosed with a sprained elbow ligament on Monday, and Andrews’ prescription was rest.

That means Cueto will be sidelined six to eight weeks. He won’t be pitching for the Giants again until late June at the earliest.

On the surface, that seems bad. But when you consider surgery would have meant Cueto would have missed the rest of 2018 and likely half of 2019, rest sounds pretty good.

Cueto was reported to have been “ecstatic, excited and pumped” by the news, which lends credibility to speculation that the first opinion Cueto got on his elbow was much more ominous.

Need further evidence? Manager Bruce Bochy said Cueto asked to pitch in Atlanta last weekend before seeing Andrews. That translates into he expected the worst from Andrews and figured he couldn’t do any more damage by pitching through the pain, which he had done very well in his previous two starts before going on the DL.

Now Cueto and the Giants hope the elbow responds to rest and rehab. That doesn’t always happen, and a real possibility of surgery being somewhere in Cueto’s future still exists.

So what will the Giants’ do between now and late June, while Cueto rests.

Well, Andrew Suarez will remain with the big club for at least late May, until Madison Bumgarner returns from his broken thumb. Suarez will get the chance to prove to deserves to remain beyond that.

Suarez is 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA in three starts with the Giants this season. He has 18 strikeouts against two walks in 17.2 innings. That’s one fewer walk than what Jeff Samardzija allowed in the first inning on Monday in Philadelphia.

Four of the six runs Suarez has allowed have come on home runs. Once Suarez figures out what pitches he can’t throw to big leaguers, he could be really, really good.

The Giants hope he is, because the depth pool for starting pitching in the organization gets a little thin after Suarez. Tyler Beede would be next up, but he’s not dazzling with  his 1-2 mark and 4.84 ERA at Triple-A.

Beyond that, you’re looking at Dereck Rodriguez (4.26 ERA), Casey Kelly (9.25), Tyler Herb (5.59) and Jose Flores (4.50). Matt Gage got promoted from Double-A Richmond in April and has allowed just one earned run in 11 innings in two starts at Sacramento, so that’s something to watch. None of those pitchers are on the Giants’ 40-man roster.

And, of course, the Giants could kick the tires on Matt Harvey, who was designated for assignment by the Mets last week.

In the meantime, they’ll stick with the pitchers they have now, and hope the offense can give them good support, which they’ve been doing of late.

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