OAKLAND — Matt Cain didn’t feel that there was any cause for a party after he finally received the Giants’ fifth starter nod from manager Bruce Bochy.
“That was always my main focus going into spring training, being a member of this rotation,” Cain said Saturday, a day after Bochy declared that the 12-year veteran right-hander had shown enough to get the job at season’s outset.
Cain, 32, fully understands he has to pitch well to keep the spot and believes he has made the necessary refinements to improve dramatically on his 2016 season, when he 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA. If Cain falters, the Giants can always go to left-handed rookie Ty Blach, who was the prime challenger to Cain this spring but will instead pitch out of the bullpen. The Giants will also have Albert Suarez at Triple-A D Sacramento as well as top prospect Tyler Beede, who started against the A’s on Sunday. Suarez made several starts in Cain’s place last season, while Beede posted an 0.96 ERA this spring and is knocking loudly for a majors breakthrough.
The 2017 spring training numbers weren’t pretty for Cain, either — a 7.82 ERA and 37 hits allowed in just 25 1/3 innings. But the pitcher spent much of the spring working on things to improve his ability to put away hitters when he gets two strikes, and felt he made significant progress to that end in his final two spring starts.
“I had to make some adjustments after getting ahead of guys and also even when I’m behind guys,” he said. “So it was good to learn what I was capable of doing toward the end of spring and be able to execute pitches. I feel like I have good momentum going into the season.”
Cain will make his first start April 7 in San Diego against the Padres. He believes the Giants have the makings of the best rotation in baseball, particularly if he can get back to the form he had for his first 10 seasons as a Giant. Fully healthy for the first time entering the season since 2013, he doesn’t see any reason why it won’t happen.
“We feel like we have a great group of guys, where every night we have a really good opportunity to win,” Cain said. “We have to be able to go deep in games and save those guys in the pen for down the stretch. That’s our plan as a staff.”