SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If the Giants skip Ryan Vogelsong's first turn through the rotation, then Matt Cain would receive the game ball and the starting assignment for the Giants' home opener April 13 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It would be fitting, given what the fan base thinks of him -- and that this could be his last season as a Giant.
Whether he signs a lucrative long-term extension before the opener or not, a wide-eyed Cain said he'd relish the honor.
"That's what's great about our park," Cain said. "The fans are there every day. Even weekday games, it's a packed house. They love baseball and it's shown with ... the attendance."
Cain will be a free agent after this season and prefers not to let negotiations for an extension leak past opening day. He hasn't started a season opener as a Giant, but he's gotten the home opener once -- in 2008, when he was beaten 8-4 by the San Diego Padres and Greg Maddux.
"The first time I did it, it was a little intense," Cain said. "You're not used to all that extra stuff that goes on. You have to give yourself extra time."
Cain has some experience with that, though. Last year, he started the second home game -- which was preceded by the World Series rings ceremony.
Cain got one step closer to the regular season by throwing five shutout innings against an Oakland A's Triple-A squad at Indian School Park on Monday. While the rest of their teammates enjoyed their only day off on the Cactus League Schedule, Cain threw to Hector Sanchez and pitched around some hard contact while throwing strikes.
He allowed four hits (three doubles), struck out four and didn't walk a batter. Cain gave up consecutive doubles in the fourth inning, but remarkably, the A's failed to score. Heavy legged catcher Derek Norris, who also doubled off Tim Lincecum two days earlier, got a bad read and ended up getting thrown out at the plate on a strong relay from center fielder Francisco Peguero to second baseman Charlie Culberson to Sanchez at the plate. The catcher blocked the plate as Norris awkwardly slidbumped into him, then finally picked up the ball on the dirt and tagged him out.
"I think it caught both of those guys off guard," said Cain, who appreciated Sanchez's efforts.
Cain said he threw all his pitches and approached the start like he was trying to get outs rather than work on specific locations.
"The last start, I wasn't throwing in to lefties that well," he said. "Today, it was better."
Tim Lincecum is scheduled to start the Giants' season opener April 6 at Arizona -- his fourth consecutive opening-day assignment. Barry Zito started the season openers in 2007 and '08 and Jason Schmidt held that honor before that.
Vogelsong is building arm strength after missing time because of a strained lower back; the Giants have a day off in the middle of their season-opening road trip to Arizona and Colorado, so they could get by with four starters until the ninth game of the season, on April 15.