Cain gives back fair value on near-perfect afternoon

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Cain gives back fair value on near-perfect afternoon

SAN FRANCISCO Matt Cain thought for a moment on thequestion, even if he knew the answer.

Yes, he would dwell a bit on that one slapped single thatPittsburgh Pirates pitcher James McDonald coaxed through the left side. Hedreplay that outside fastball in his mind a time or two before hitting thepillow.

Its something Ive always wanted to do, throughout highschool and Little League, Cain said.

Wait. Cain has never thrown a no-hitter? Not even againstCollierville High or Dyer County? Not against a bunch of Tennessee 10-year-oldschasing butterflies in the outfield?

Nope, Cain said. Never had one.

Once again, Cain nearly had it -- and so much more. In frontof a sellout crowd on a surprisingly resplendent Friday afternoon, he retired27 of 28 batters. McDonald was his only baserunner. That streaking single wasthe only blemish on what wouldve been the 21st perfect game inmajor league history.

In 129 years, no Giant has thrown one.

Yeah, youll think about it, that you gave up one hit,said Cain, who owns one-hitters over the As (in 2006) and Diamondbacks (in10). But its a win and you take it.

Yes, everyone will. Theyll take Cains 11-strikeout,no-walk dominance. Theyll take Buster Posey turning a poignant reunion into alove fest with his RBI double off the wall. Theyll take Aubrey Huffs homerinto the arcade and another multi-hit game from Melky Cabrera, too.

Theyll take it all in the Giants 5-0 victory.
RECAP: Cain brilliant in Giants' home-opening win

Mostly, though, theyll take their grounded right-hander withthe Tennessee roots, who didnt sit well with the way he loosened the leash inhis previous start against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

So he stared down the Pirates with choke-chain stuff.

Weve all seen him locked in, said Giants manager BruceBochy, of his right-handed ace with the perfect postseason ERA. Thats as goodas hes been.

Bochy said he knew from the first inning. So did Posey, eventhough he let Hector Sanchez warm up Cain in the bullpen. Most players willplay coy with something as fickle as a perfect game. Theyll say they werentthinking about it or it didnt occur to them.

Posey was honest. He had it in his mind very, very early.

Yeah, I was pretty aware of it, Posey said. He wasthrowing so good, you thought he had a shot.

Cain wasnt just setting down the Pirates in order throughthe first 17 hitters. He was blowing them away. Through the first six innings,he generated 18 swings and misses eight on his fastball, eight on hischangeup and two on his slider.

The changeup made all the difference. Its the pitch thatturned Cain from a young thrower into a true artist. Its the reason the Giantshad no buyers remorse after handing him a five-year, 112.5 million extensiontwo weeks ago.

Its a pitch that Cain couldnt handle until he startedplaying catch with Jason Schmidt during the 2006 season.

You know, I think its just a confidence thing, Cain toldme. I always wanted to find a way to throw a changeup. All through the minorleagues, I tried a lot of different things. It just never felt comfortable.Then Schmitty showed me a grip that I liked and I ran with it. Its a two-seamgrip, just getting your two middle fingers to sit right on those seams.

It wasnt an instant discovery. As Cain wryly noted,Throwing it and trusting it are not the same thing.

Cain and Posey knew to trust it from the beginning againstthe Pirates desperately swinging lineup. First, he had to command his hard,darting fastball to set it up. He did, throwing it to all four quadrants of thezone.

He just does such a good job with his arm action, Poseytold me. Hes got deception. A good changeup always starts with that, but whenits got movement, thats when its a really great pitch.

And how was it moving?

Straight down, said Posey, with a sober edge.

Cain was speed-walking toward an intersection with history.The few pitches the Pirates put into play hard resulted in outs and a growing sense of fate. Angel Paganran down Casey McGehees deep drive to center field in the second inning.Shortstop Brandon Crawford made an even more remarkable play in the fourth, when Andrew McCutchen hit a jam shot thatskidded under Cains glove. Crawford made a barehand pickup and throw to nipthe fleet runner.

Crawford said he wasnt thinking about preserving theperfect game at the time. An inning or two later, he realized what hiscontribution might have meant.

Cain, entering his confrontation with McDonald with two outsin the sixth, said he was definitely aware of it. At a 2-1 (count), Imthrowing to the outer third of the plate and he put a good swing on it. He canhit and I knew that going in.

Undaunted, Cain retired the last 10 hitters in order. AfterCrawford scooped Alex Presleys grounder for the final out, Cain calmly pointedat Posey and gave him a quick tap on the back.

Then, he said, You start letting that check in and realizewhat happened. Its definitely exciting to be back in the city.

That city showered him with cheers once again. Cain willbe here to soak up many more ovations after signing his extension. He is raising a young family. He has the respect of his teammates, the admiration of his coaches and the devotion of a passionate fan base.

Hell get ninefigures. On Friday, he gave back fair value.

Cain hasnt thrown a perfect game, or a no-hitter. But otherthan that, he really does have it all.

Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A

Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A

CHICAGO -- The Giants wanted Christian Arroyo to force his way up to the big leagues. Chris Shaw isn't exactly in the same boat, but he is now at the same level where Arroyo was to start the year. 

Shaw, the top power-hitting prospect in the organization, was promoted from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday morning. General manager Bobby Evans said Shaw, a first baseman in his first couple of years in the minors, will continue his recent outfield work. Shaw had been playing left field in Richmond and he will be the primary left fielder in Sacramento.

"He's put himself in a position where the next test is the Triple-A level," Evans said. "He was starting to get to the point where he was ready for the next challenge."

It is unlikely that Shaw gets promoted again this season because the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. Arroyo, on the other hand, would have been added after this season anyway. Austin Slater, who also needs to be added at some point in 2017, is more likely to earn a September call-up. The Giants do, however, leave the door open for prospects to force the issue. 

The 23-year-old Shaw was the 31st overall pick in the 2015 draft. He hit 12 homers in 46 games in rookie ball and then slugged 16 in 72 games for the San Jose Giants, earning a promotion late in 2016. Shaw had five more homers in two months with the Flying Squirrels and he opened up this year with six in 133 at-bats. 

In three minor league seasons, Shaw is batting .277 with a .350 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage. He has 39 homers in 813 professional at-bats, along with 59 doubles and four triples. In 37 games this season, Shaw has 26 strikeouts and 18 walks.

"He controls the strike zone and he's got a fairly decent eye," Evans said. "He strikes out a relatively low percentage of the time and has a pretty good walk rate for a power guy."

Shaw played quite a bit in the outfield at Boston College but he was a first baseman in the minors until this season. With Brandon Belt locked in at first at the big league level, the Giants started giving Shaw starts in left field. Before leaving Richmond, Shaw made 18 starts in the outfield, totaling 158 innings. 

Listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Shaw would be big in left, even by the Giants' standards. In the past, scouts -- who admitted they had only seen him at first -- insisted he probably can't handle the position, but the Giants disagree. Shaw is said to have the footwork to handle left, but he's working on getting comfortable with throws. 

"He played a lot of outfield in college, pretty close to 100 games, mostly in right field," Evans said. "We'd like to give him as much time as possible to get comfortable.  We discussed (the outfield) this spring and we made a more conscious decision to get him out there (in left). That was a discussion from the time he was drafted."

 

Giants finalizing deal to sell Marrero's rights to Japanese team

Giants finalizing deal to sell Marrero's rights to Japanese team

CHICAGO -- Chris Marrero forced his way onto the Opening Day roster with a huge spring. Two months later, he's headed overseas.

The Giants are close to finalizing a deal that would sell Marrero's rights to the Orix Buffaloes of the Japanese league, general manager Bobby Evans said Wednesday. Marrero was designated for assignment last month to clear a roster spot for Christian Arroyo.

Marrero, a 28-year-old former first-round pick, hit eight homers this spring, including a couple of walk-off shots, to become part of the left field platoon with Jarrett Parker. The plan didn't work out. Parker got hurt and Marrero batted just .132 before being designated.

At the time, Marrero said he hoped to work his way back up, and manager Bruce Bochy said he would like to see Marrero find his power swing in the minors and then return. Japan, however, is a more lucrative opportunity for veterans. Marrero had asked the Giants to help facilitate the move so he could sign a new deal with Orix.