San Francisco – It was not a case of crossed signals. Johnny Couto really had the green light, manager Gabe Kapler explained on Saturday afternoon, a day after his dynamic, eccentric starter swiped first base by the Giants’ hurler in season 18.
For a long time, Cuoto said, he’s told his coaches, I’m going to steal when I get the green light.
And there was Lamonte Wade, on a 2-2 pitch in the third inning of Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Pirates. Pittsburgh starter Chad Kuhl was taking his time at home plate and first baseman John Ngowski was playing with the bag. Cueto, who worked on foot to reach first base, took the offensive lead and took four steps forward before leaving his helmet in the dust behind him.
“I read his feet,” Cueto said Friday night through an interpreter. “I thought I was going to take off as soon as he raised his hand and placed it on his chest. And that’s exactly what I did.”
Cueto stood up and entered second base – a grin about 90 feet long on his face.
Johnny Cuto: Speed Demon pic.twitter.com/VPWS8EtuDh
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 24, 2021
“I love that he’s such a showman,” Kapler said before Saturday’s game. “He has a flair for drama and a style that is unique and everyone has their own. I think style is an important part of this team. We need some emotion and Johnny has brought it to us.”
And, Kapler said, “his sprint pace is real.”
For a variety of reasons – risk of injury, athleticism, a simple lack of opportunities, to name a few – it is rare that a pitcher uses his feet on the basepath. No Giants pitcher had stolen a base since Kirk Reuter had a single and swiped second against Arizona on August 29, 2003.
Cueto suffers from a lack of athleticism. He’s fielding a ground ball to second base in the pregame warmup, and Kapler said Kyuto can outrun a handful of Giants position players.
Kapler said he’d like to give more pitchers the green light to drive, but often the concern over injury outweighs the ability to lift the extra 90 feet.
“There are times when the first baseman doesn’t put the pitcher where we want to run, and the only thing holding us back is injury,” Kapler said. “How badly would we want to put this pitcher on second base? Is it worth his slip and fall? Something weird is happening? In Johnny’s case, I think he’s actually ready to run, so I wasn’t that worried.”
As for the rest of the Giants’ pitching staff? Well, maybe it won’t be another 18 years. But don’t count on any more green lights anytime soon.
Kyoto must be passing his time.
“If they give me the green light,” he said, “I’ll go ahead and take it.”