Cain reiterates opening day 'cutoff' for contract talks

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Cain reiterates opening day 'cutoff' for contract talks

SURPRISE, Ariz. Matt Cain admitted his contract situationhas floated in and out of his mind this spring. He doesnt want that to happen when the games really matter.

Cain reiterated that the April 6 season opener would be acutoff for negotiating a long-term extension. Although both sides havecharacterized it as a soft deadline, Cains language was as firm as hisfastball.

Well, if the season starts, its a cutoff and thats kindof what were thinking about, said Cain, after holding the Texas Rangers tothree hits and two runs on a pair of solo homers in seven innings Thursdaynight. Neither one of us wants that lingering over our heads. (GM Brian)Sabean has been great about that.

Cain said he hasnt spoken to his agents every day, butnegotiations are ongoing and there remains mutual interest in completing a dealwithin the coming days. Giants CEO Larry Baer said earlier Thursday that theclub wasnt making a lowball offer, and that our desire is for him to remain aGiant. Theres nothing weve seen from him that shows his desire is not to be.

Cain acknowledged that the contract talks have entered hismind this spring. Its certainly on everyone elses mind, too. If a deal isntreached before the team jets home Sunday, Cain is sure to be deluged withquestions from media and fans alike.

Youre paying attention to it, but its one of thosedeals, said Cain, who can become a free agent after this season. If your mindstarts wandering, youve got to pull yourself away from it. Any time I maybeget too deep in thought about anything like that, I have to pull myself awayand focus on what I need to do on the field.

Cain received a different kind of snap to attention in thesecond inning, when Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli hit consecutive home runs.Cain responded by retiring 17 of the next 19 hitters, making it through seveninnings on 91 pitches.

Matts ready, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who wasthen asked if there was a better No.3 starter in baseball.

No, Bochy said. Hes not a No.3 starter. Thats the wayit falls in our rotation, sure, and he and I talked about that. He knows. Hesa No.1 in our eyes and in everybody in baseballs eyes, too.

Cain said he still needed to hone his slider, which wasinconsistent. Otherwise, hes ready to go and pumped to be a part of one ofbaseballs best rotations. As he has said on several occasions, the Giantsstrong rotation is one of the allures about staying here long-term.

Were all really excited about going out and competingagainst each other, trying to see who will throw the most innings, Cain said. Illleave the strikeouts to Timmy and Bum. They can punch some tickets. Theyreready and Vogelsong is getting healthy and I know Zito is excited. Were allready to get the season started.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.