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Johnny Cueto could pitch for Dominican Republic in WBC finals

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Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto was late to arrive to spring training due to visa issues that came about trying to travel with his ill father. As a result, he did not pitch for the Dominican Republic in the first or second rounds of the World Baseball Classic.

If the D.R. is able to advance to the finals, however, Cueto might be able to pitch for the team, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cueto said, “If the third round comes around and they need me, then I will cross that bridge when we come to it.” Cueto also apologized for not being able to contribute in the first and second rounds, saying, “I’m sorry. I would like to represent my country. I hope they understand why.”

Cueto made his Cactus League debut on Saturday, pitching two innings in a split-squad game against the Reds. He’s entering the second year of a six-year, $130 million contract signed with the Giants in December 2015. He finished the past season with an 18-5 record, a 2.79 ERA, and a 198/45 K/BB ratio over 219 2/3 innings.

The Dominican Republic lost its opening game of the second round to Puerto Rico 3-1 on Tuesday. It will face Venezuela next on Thursday night and wrap up the group in a game against the United States on Saturday.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.