SAN DIEGO — Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto wasn’t the first choice.
Or the second choice.
Perhaps he wasn’t even the third choice to be the starting pitcher for the National League at this year’s All-Star Game, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less deserving of the honor.
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In fact, it’s hard to think of a pitcher more deserving.
That’s because when Cueto takes the mound to throw the National League’s first pitch in Tuesday’s contest, it will be his first in the All-Star Game.
How does that happen?
How is a starting pitcher with the second-best ERA in the major leagues since 2011 yet to throw a pitch in the All-Star Game?
The answer is, at this point, beyond anyone — add it to the list of baseball quirks — but Tuesday will be a step toward recompense.
Cueto has been nothing shy of marvelous all season for the Giants in his first year with the team — if he wasn’t at the top of National League manager Terry Collins’ list to start the All-Star Game, then it only speaks to the level of pitching dominance the National League boasts this year.
How else could you explain a pitcher with a 13-1 record and a paltry 0.99 WHIP and a league-leading four complete games not being the first choice?
No matter how we got to this point, the truth is the same: The 30-year-old Dominican will take to the bump at the start of the 87th Midsummer Classic on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET on FOX).
After not playing in his only other All-Star Game, 2014, the magnitude of being the All-Star Game starter isn’t lost on Cueto, who will be the first Dominican All-Star Game starter since then-Rockies righty Ubaldo Jimenez opened the 2010 game in Anaheim.
The words most commonly used by him to describe the honor — "huge", "tremendous."
Don’t tell Cueto the All-Star Game doesn’t mean anything — it was evident to anyone within a 100-yard range Monday this means everything to Cueto.
When Collins responded to a question about the game determining home-field advantage in the World Series with a non-sequitur argument about how his team wants to win, because they’re competitive, Cueto couldn’t help but laugh.
Not at the notion that he wants to win. No, at how true the statement is.
"I want to say how happy I am to get this opportunity," Cueto said through an interpreter.
So while it’s a shame that fans won’t see Clayton Kershaw, he of the even more astounding 0.727 WHIP this season, because of injury, or Bumgarner, who has posted a 0.964 WHIP in his 19 starts, because of a Sunday start, there’s little sacrifice being made. Cueto is absolutely of their elite class this season, and it’s going to be tough to take him off the mound when his outing is over.