PHOENIX -- With each bullpen session he throws, injured starter Johnny Cueto is moving closer to rejoining the San Francisco Giants pitching staff.
With each day Cueto spends at the Giants' minor league complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., the veteran pitcher is helping to change an important part of the organization's culture.
Cueto, 33, left the Scottsdale complex Saturday to throw a 40-pitch bullpen in front of Giants coaches and trainers at Chase Field in Phoenix and expressed confidence that he'll pitch in the major leagues this season.
"I feel really good and obviously if I'm able to pitch in September, I'd be really happy to be back with the team," Cueto said through Spanish language translator Erwin Higueros.
Fewer than 11 months after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Cueto touched 88 miles per hour on the radar gun in a session that left manager Bruce Bochy impressed.
"I'll tell you, he's close," Bochy said. "He was hitting 87-88 and that's in a bullpen session. Usually your adrenaline isn't going that high where you're going to have that kind of velocity. He looks like he's on his way."
Is it realistic to expect Cueto to start games for the Giants this September?
"I'd be surprised if he didn't," Bochy said.
Cueto is throwing two bullpen sessions a week and began throwing all three of his off-speed pitches during Tuesday's bullpen session. Last month, he threw an all-fastball bullpen in front of the Giants' staff at Chase Field and reported that his arm felt healthy and strong.
Following Saturday's session, Cueto was even more encouraged with his progress.