Cain makes healthy statement as Giants edge a bit closer

Cain: 'For the most part, (I'm) pretty satisfied'

Cain makes healthy statement as Giants edge a bit closer
July 20, 2013, 11:30 pm
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Matt Cain didn't record an out in the sixth, but the Giants' defense contributed to a high pitch count issue Saturday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN FRANCISCO – Matt Cain continues to insist he is the picture of health, which is very much in character for him. 

The Giants’ stoic right-hander could amble over to his locker with a circular saw embedded in his leg and swear to reporters, shrugging in that “next question” way of his, that nothing was the matter.

Cain reiterated that he hasn’t dealt with any aches, pains, dead arm, communicable diseases or any other malady that would explain away his very un-Cain like first half, especially the quick hook in his last start nine days earlier in which Bruce Bochy might as well have tossed a siren on his cap as he walked out for the baseball.

From what I understand, Cain did have discomfort during and after the Dodgers’ eight-run feasting against him July 5. That’s why Bochy was so quick to get the bullpen going five days later against the Mets.

But really, it doesn’t matter what Cain or the Giants or my sources say. If their opening-day ace and longest tenured player has proven anything over the years, it’s that he makes his most meaningful statements on the mound, with one foot on the slab.

[INSTANT REPLAY: Posey, Sandoval back Cain in Giants' 4-3 win]

Soon enough, we’ll know. Either Cain will have to grit through an elbow that is as human as anyone else’s, prone to flare-ups and chips and spurs, or he’ll feel just peachy out there and unleash one well-oiled pitch after another without the slightest pang of pain.

What the Giants saw Saturday night was a pitcher who finished his slider, had movement on his curve and summoned life on his 93 mph fastball when spots were the stickiest.

They saw Cain exceed 100 pitches, and although he didn’t record an out in the sixth inning, it’s worth noting that Tony Abreu’s error cost him 14 extra pitches in a 31-pitch fifth.

They saw Cain snap a five-start winless streak in a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. More than anything, they saw him pitch like a front-of-the-rotation presence.

That’s nice, since you can throw out every other variable in the mix: without a top-shelf Cain, this second half just won’t be fit to drink.

“Matt looked good, threw the ball well,” Bochy said. “He felt great, looked great, had good stuff. It was a nice effort and he won a ballgame for us.”

Said Sergio Romo: “That’s kind of the outing we’ve been spoiled to see Matt Cain give us.”

That’s the best evidence that Cain is feeling better than he was two weeks ago. You sure weren’t getting anything more at his locker. He swatted back questions like he was spoiling 0-2 fastballs.

Was he feeling better?

“That wasn’t a problem,” he said.

Did the nine days off help?

“Yeah, it’s nice to have a week off. Everybody wants a week off,” he said. “In high school, you pitched once a week. It was nice.”

It took four or five attempts at rephrasing the question before Cain acknowledged that yes, it did give him some peace of mind to start this second half with a good, clean start.

“Yeah, you needed that, and I think we all needed that,” he said. “Obviously, we want to play good against these guys. And (when) you go out there and can’t make it through an inning, that’s not going to get it done. As a starter, it’s kind of drilled into you to go seven innings. That’s kind of the biggest thing. You feel like you put the team in a big rut.”

He had enough time to think about the shortest start of his career, didn’t he?

“Yeah, really, right?” he said. “But you can’t dwell on it. It’s done. Strange things happen in baseball and that happened. You move on.”

Cain sure didn’t seem like he was fretful last week in San Diego, and not just because he threw a side session. He bounced around the clubhouse, joked with teammates and was as loose as I’ve seen him all season. He didn’t have another start before the break, so that might explain some of it. But you don’t act that way if you’re a $112 million ace who’s worried about whether he can grind through his next start. That told me, more than anything, that Cain would be OK when he took the mound again.

Besides, acknowledgments are overrated. It’s everything else that matters.