Giants

Matt Cain not planning on being a member of the Giants' bullpen

Matt Cain not planning on being a member of the Giants' bullpen

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner has the same memory as many of the Giants who checked into spring training Monday morning. On his first ever day in big league camp, eight years ago, Bumgarner met Matt Cain.

“He made a point of coming up to me to speak,” Bumgarner recalled.

That’s been Cain’s role for the better part of a decade. He is the longest-tenured Giant, and these days that means a bit more than it used to. Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez have retired. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla have moved on, along with stalwarts like Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan. Cain is the ultimate veteran in a clubhouse full of relative newcomers and prospects, but the 32-year-old also finds himself in a spot not often reserved for pitchers heading for Year 13. 

It’s no secret that Cain has to compete for his job this spring, and while he’s the frontrunner for the fifth starter spot, Cain will find tough competition in youngsters like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, as well as holdovers such as Albert Suarez. 

“Good. That’s good,” Cain said Monday. “Let’s go with it. That’s a good competition. Let’s all compete for it. That’s fine with me.”

Cain already has a leg up, and not just because he has made 308 starts in orange and black. It’s hard to get a true read on ability in Arizona, where breaking balls often don’t break and Double-A kids stroll to the plate intent on hacking. Cain won’t need to post a 2.50 ERA this spring, he’ll simply need to prove that he’s healthy and he can command the ball. In that respect, he’s off to a good start.

“The biggest thing is having a normal spring,” he said. “I haven’t had that the last couple of years.”

Cain isn't coming off elbow surgery this time around. He is not dealing with a cyst on his pitching arm, either. He had a normal offseason, traveling with his family and starting a throwing program in December. He didn’t go back and watch film of his 2016 starts because he didn’t need to. The numbers — a 5.64 ERA in 21 appearances — speak for themselves, but Cain was able to find positives in certain outings. His fastball velocity was generally fine, and there were innings and stretches of starts where he felt like his old self. Then it would unravel. 

“It’s all there, everything is still there,” he said of his repertoire. “It’s just about not having the huge waves that I had last year. It was really good moments and really terrible moments.”

At FanFest on Saturday, pitching coach Dave Righetti said he feels Cain can still get through a lineup twice and often a third time, noting that he just needs to clear a hurdle that’s keeping him from getting deep into games. And if not, that’s fine too, Righetti said. 

The Giants will more often than not take five-and-dive if that’s the best case scenario. They have a deep rotation, with four guys at the front end who expect to sail past 200 innings. Cain, as always, has that same goal, but the Giants are realistic after a series of down years. They are also at times hopeful. 

“In a perfect world, Matt Cain would be Matt Cain and he would take that spot,” general manager Bobby Evans said recently. 

That’s the expectation Cain has for himself. He shied away from talk about his future on Monday, saying this being the final guaranteed year of his contract “doesn’t matter.” He’s not thinking of following Affeldt and Lopez or about the possibility that his final years in the big leagues might be spent in a much different role. 

“The bullpen is always a possibility for anyone,” Cain said, “But that’s not where I plan on being.”

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

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USATSI

Madison Bumgarner, Gorkys Hernandez make statements in win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — A 2-1 victory Saturday night at Dodger Stadium all but assured that the Giants will not lose 100 games. They still could, sure, because any sort of downslide is possible in this 2017 season, but they would really have to finish with some sort of ugly stretch. 

Still, it’s been a long season, so it was no surprise when Madison Bumgarner admitted to some sleepless nights since Opening Day. As for Saturday night …

“It’s going to be much easier to go to sleep tonight, because we won,” Bumgarner said.

The big lefty did the heavy lifting, throwing 7 2/3 dominant innings and offering one more reminder that his shoulder is 100 percent fine after a season-halting dirt bike accident. Bumgarner topped out at 93.5 mph, and even though Bruce Bochy thought Dodger Stadium might have had a hot gun on this night, the swings told the story of a good fastball. Bumgarner said this was as good as he has felt in a while. 

“He did look strong,” Bochy said. “He did have really good stuff tonight. It was really crisp.”

It was the kind of night that reminds you that, for all their issues, the Giants will start 2018 with a leg up on many others. They have Madison Bumgarner and you don’t, and that should lead to plenty of good over the course of 32 or 33 starts. 

“I think it’s good for the club to know, hey, he’s back,” Bochy said. “This is the kind of ball we can play.”

It was the brand Bochy appreciates: A strong start, a good bullpen, strong defense, and just enough offense. That’s how the Giants will win in 2018, if they are to do so, which bodes well for the man at the center of Saturday’s offense. The Giants plan to move Denard Span to left field and acquire a new center fielder, but they still lack depth in the organization, and Gorkys Hernandez has made it clear he would like to stick around. He had three hits — including two doubles — and a walk, scoring both Giants runs. 

After a slow start that almost got him released, Hernandez took off over the summer, providing a high average and sparkling defense at three spots. A left wrist tendon issue has slowed him in September, but he surprised the staff by being available for the final two weeks of games, and he said he’ll play through the end of the year before considering any rehab options 

“He certainly has made a statement,” Bochy said. “He’s one of our better athletes. He can play anywhere in the outfield, and what’s impressive is how he’s come on with the bat. A kid like this that plays defense the way he can, and shows he can do some things with the bat, he’s in the mix.”

Hernandez said he loves playing in San Francisco. He intends to spend his offseason getting healthy at his home in Scottsdale before competing for an outfield job. 

“Every time Bochy puts me in the lineup I’m trying to show everyone that I can be here and that I can be part of this team for a long time,” he said. 

Giants lineup: Span back in center, batting third vs Dodgers

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AP

Giants lineup: Span back in center, batting third vs Dodgers

Even with the Giants facing a left-handed pitcher Saturday night vs. the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy is going with Denard Span as his three-hitter.

San Francisco Giants (60-94)

1. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Denard Span (L) CF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Hunter Pence (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 3B
8. Ryder Jones (L) 1B
9. Madison Bumgarner (R) P

Los Angeles Dodgers (98-56)

1. Chris Taylor (R) CF
2. Corey Seager (L) SS
3. Enrique Hernandez (R) LF
4. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
5. Logan Forsythe (R) 3B
6. Austin Barnes (R) C
7. Kyle Farmer (R) 1B
8. Charlie Culberson (R) 2B
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu (R) P