As home openers go, that was about perfect.
Buster Posey spanked a first-inning pitch off the center field wall for a two-out RBI double in his first official at-bat at home since suffering a season-ending injury last season.
Aubrey Huff smacked a one-hop splash hit (you know, how we like splash hits, even though this wasn’t an official one) to give the Giants their seventh 4+ run game of the season.
And, of course, there was Matt Cain.
Cain has a losing record for his career, through no fault of his own as he’s been a historic victim of poor run support.
But on Friday, all the support Cain would need is the first-inning double by Posey. He faced 28 batters for the Giants’ second complete-game shutout in five days.
“What a day by Matt,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ve all seen him locked in like this. He was as good as he’s been.”
The lone blemish? A sixth-inning single by Pirates’ pitcher James McDonald, a career .069 hitter.
“You think about, it’s like ‘Man, the pitcher stood in his way for a perfect game,’ ” McDonald said.
Cain was thinking about it.
“I was definitely aware of it, but I’m thinking there, ‘I’m behind in the count 2-1, but I’m throwing something to the outer third of the plate,’ ” Cain said. “He put a good swing on it. He did his job. He can hit.”
After that his, Cain went back to work, setting down the final 10 Pirates for a 106-pitch complete game that was over in a litte more than two hours.
Barry Zito faces Charlie Morton as the Giants play the Pirates at 6:05 p.m.
There was a lot to be happy about after Tuesday’s exhibition at the Oakland Coliseum, so we’ll leave the downer news for later in this post.
But first, happy thoughts.
The Giants won, taking their second straight against the cross-bay rivals, so that’s good.
Matt Cain had a solid outing in his first outing since agreeing to a five-year contract extension on Monday.
“Yeah, it’s a relief,” Cain told the Associated Press. “I definitely have a lot more time here, and that’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have that energy. All the guys are feeling good and excited. It was a really cool to see how much (of a reaction) it got from fans and from my teammates. They’re so excited, and it pumps you up. And it makes you ready for the season.”
Cain appeared ready for the season, limiting the A’s to two runs on five hits and one walk over five innings. He struck out six.
Cain was also helped out by a nice throw from center fielder Angel Pagan, who threw out Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes trying to score from second.
And Cain capped his night with a nifty, yet somewhat unnerving, throw out of Coco Crisp.
Crisp squibbed a Cain pitch to the right of the mound. Cain charged to field it, but slipped on the grass. Still, he was able to throw Crisp out at first with a throw from the seat of his pants.
After Cain left, the bullpen again kept Oakland bats quiet with four hitless innings from Clay Hensley, Jeremy Affeldt, Guillermo Mota and Sergio Romo.
All happy, happy times.
OK, now the downer stuff.
For the second night in a row, the Giants still struggled to mount much offense against a pitcher who is battling to be Oakland’s No. 5 starter.
It was nice to see the Giants use a little small ball to score in the first inning. Gregor Blanco led off the game with a single, stole second and scored on Pablo Sandoval’s one-out single.
Yet, after the Giants took a 3-2 lead in the fifth, they had the bases loaded and one out but failed to score when Emmanuel Burriss and Eli Whiteside both failed to put the ball in play.
Oh well. It is still preseason, so even if they pounded the ball all over the year, it wouldn’t mean anything.
- In an interview with CSN’s Amy Gutierrez, Aubrey Huff quipped that “now that I’m an outfielder” he could give tips to the other outfielders. It was just a bit of Huff-like whimsy, but it seemed to indicate that Brandon Belt has made the club. Manager Bruce Bochy said all roster decisions have been reached, but he would not announce them until Wednesday morning prior to the Giants final preseason game.
- Bochy said he got good reports from Barry Zito’s bullpen session Monday in Arizona (he didn’t give up any runs; of course, he didn’t face any batters either). Zito will pitch a minor-league game Wednesday before joining the team in Phoenix for Friday’s opener. Sigh, I guess that means they are going to stick with him to pitch Monday in Colorado.
- Freddy Sanchez played four inning of a minor-league game in Arizona Tuesday. Bochy said while Sanchez showed signs of improvement that he’s still “a couple weeks away.”
- Bochy also said that Hector Sanchez has done enough to make the squad, but whether he does or not depends on how many catchers the Giants keep. “It’s a matter of two or three,” Bochy said. Gee, thanks for clearing that up, Boch. We were thinking it could be one or four.
Yusmeiro Petit will get the start as the Giants face the A’s at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday at AT&T Park.
I’m not one to say I told you so, but ….
Hey, here’s a quote from a blog post on MoreSplashHits from late February.
“MoreSplashHits thinks that offer was more designed for Cain than Lincecum. The Giants offered it knowing Lincecum would turn it down. Then they could turn and make a similar offer to Cain.”
So what happened on Monday?
Cain and the Giants agreed to a five-year, $100 million deal.
Actually, with the $5 million signing bonus and the $7.5 million buyout for the 2018 option year, it brings the total guaranteed value of the deal at $112.5 million. That’s probably what Cain was holding out for.
The 2018 contract year as a vesting player option for $21 million if he reaches a certain number of innings pitched.
It means between now and 2018, the Giants could ending up paying Cain $141 million over the next years.
Some outlets were reporting the deal at $127.5 million. But that’s simple math.
Cain was due to make $15 this season. So take that $15 million, add $5 million signing bonus, five years at $100 million, plus the $7.5 buyout for 2018, it equals $127.5 million guaranteed over six years.
And let’s dispell some thoughts that have been shared in the wake of this deal.
First, there is the thought of the Giants giving so much to a pitcher who has a career losing record and has never won more than 14 games a season.
My response: Who cares.
Cain has historically received paltry run support. His career run support per 9 innings pitched of 3.6 is a full run below the league average.
To make a comparison, Cain received 3.6 runs of support last year had a 2.88 ERA and went 12-11.
Ian Kennedy of Arizona received 4.3 runs of support, had a 2.88 ERA and went 21-4.
It shows what a few more runs, and other circumstances, can do to a pitcher’s win-loss record.
Also, let’s tone down the rhetoric that the Dodgers sale sparked this deal getting done.
The Dodgers deal was going to happen. They were going to be sold this season. And once they were did, the new owners would be in a situation to spend more on the team, no matter who bought the team or what the price tag was.
The Giants knew this. Cain’s camp knew this. Everyone knew this. It really wasn’t much of a factor. It’s a cosmetic cause-and-effect thing.
The real issue was the opening day deadline that Cain and the Giants were working on. That’s why they made this deal now.
And we’re glad they did. It keeps Cain in black-and-orange through 2017, at least.
And here’s the big thing. It moves Zito down the list on the list of players the Giants will pay the most this season, behind Lincecum and now Cain.
All is not right in the world. But it’s certainly getter better.
Well, we can see that Matt Cain is about ready for the season. Maybe the Giants ought to thinking about signing this guy past this season. Just a thought.
Cain sailed through five innings against the Reds, giving up no runs, four hits, no walks and fanning five.
“Everything is going good,” Cain told the AP. “I’m just getting my pitch count up. … I don’t have much to work on.”
Cain is on schedule to start Thursday against the Rangers in his final spring start in the desert. Then, he should get the call on April 3 against the A’s in Oakland. That would align him perfectly to throw in Game No. 3 of the regular season on April 8 at Arizona.
- OF Gregor Blanco showed a rare boost of power, belting a home run in the second inning. He finished 1 for 5. His spring average has been slowly dipping in the past week down to .373. But it doesn’t matter much. His speed and glove will keep him on the roster, two things that don’t go into a slump.
- 1B Brandon Belt keeps doing his thang. He went 3 for 4 with a walk and a double. He’s hitting .380. Although Bruce Bochy still says the decision on whether to keep Belt on roster will go down to the wire, we can’t see how he doesn’t break camp with the club.
- OF Nate Schierholtz went 2 for 3 with a walk, as he tries to get things together as talk begins to circulate that his RF job is jeopardy (possibly to Belt, who would actually play LF with Melky Cabrera sliding to RF).
Barry Zito gets the start as the Giants travel to play the White Sox at 1:05 p.m. The game will be aired on tape-delay at 9 p.m. on MLB Network.
Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum? That seems to be the million dollar question for the Giants this spring. Can they afford both?
Many believe the answer is no. Eric Byrnes and John Hart said as much last month when Tim Lincecum signed his two-year, $40.5 million deal.
General manager Brian Sabean said yes.
“We’ll have enough wherewithal in the budget to sign both players,” Sabean said in early February.
But how can this be, when Cain and Lincecum could end up costing the Giants $50 million a season, or more?
Well, let’s call it the Zito/Rowand Factor.
For the past four seasons and into 2012, the Giants have spent at least $30 million a season for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand and received little in return. In 2013, that figure will drop to $20 million (just Zito). In 2014, it will just be Zito’s $7 million buyout.
If the Giants can afford to spend more than $64 million on Zito, Lincecum, Cain and Rowand in 2012, they can afford to give Cain as much as $22 million in 2013 with Rowand’s $12 million coming off the board. In 2014, Zito’s contract comes off the board.
So, the Giants should easily be able to sign Lincecum and Cain for less than $64 million a season.
Not only that, but other contracts come off the board after 2012. Aubrey Huff ($10 million), Freddy Sanchez ($6 million), Jeremy Affledt ($5 million), Angel Pagan ($6 million) and Melky Cabrera ($4.85 million) are among the Giants who will be eligible for free agency after this season.
But there are other factors. Brian Wilson is eligible for his final year of arbitration in 2013. Buster Posey will be arbitration-eligible in 2013. Madison Bumgarner also could possibly join him. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla are also arbitration-eligible.
Cain said on Saturday that he want to settle on a contract extension by the start of the season and is seeking “fair value.”
But what is fair value?
The Giants reportedly offered Lincecum a five-year, $100 million offer, which he rejected before agreeing to the two-year, $40.5 million deal.
MoreSplashHits thinks that offer was more designed for Cain than Lincecum. The Giants offered it knowing Lincecum would turn it down. Then they could turn and make a similar offer to Cain.
The fact that Cain hasn’t nibbled yet indicates he could be seeking more — perhaps along the lines of the five-year, $120 million deal Cliff Lee got from the Phillies last year.
Trying to find some good news out of spring training camp Wednesday for the San Francisco Giants would take some searching.
It was a bad day all around. Hopefully, in a couple of days, it won’t seem so bad. But we’ll see.
It started with Brian Wilson throwing in the bullpen and eventually being told to stop after a few minutes.
Where that puts Wilson’s status for opening day next week depends on who you ask.
Wilson gave the impression that Wednesday’s workout was just another step on the road to getting ready. But manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants would not rush to get Wilson ready for the opener, suggesting that he may open the season on the disabled list.
“We’re running short on time,” Bochy said. “This isn’t the time to rush Willie back.”
Then, when the game started against the Angels, Matt Cain got tagged for five first-inning runs in his second start back from elbow inflammation.
The bad inning started with a swinging bunt single by Erick Aybar. Howie Kendrick singled sharply up the middle. Then Bobby Abreu hit an 0-2 pitch over the right-field fence for a three-run homer. After Torii Hunter walked and stole second, Cain got Vernon Wells and Albert Callaspo to fly out (more on the second out later). Mark Trumbo followed with deep double to left-center to score Hunter. Trumbo then scored on a single by Jeff Mathis.
In the second and third innings, Cain surrendered no runs on two hits, no walks and two strikeouts.
The good news is that Cain said he felt good after the start, encouraged that he felt as strong at the end of his three innings as he did at the start. But he added he was “out of rhythm” which caused some pitches to leak out over the plate.
It was the third consecutive uneven start by Giants pitchers, following Madison Bumgarner’s rough start Sunday against the A’s, and Tim Lincecum’s outing Monday against the Rockies in a game that was eventually called for rain.
The end result Wednesday was an 8-0 loss to the Angels, the third consecutive loss for the Giants and the fourth in their last five games.
But the biggest loss Wednesday was that off right fielder Cody Ross. Ross suffered a strained calf on a fairly routine fly ball off the bat of Callaspo.
Ross limped off the field on his own power and went for an MRI. The Giants announced late Wednesday that Ross had sustained a strained calf. Just how long he’ll be sidelined likely won’t be know until Thursday.
It’s funny how quickly things can change. Last week, the season couldn’t start quickly enough for the Giants. And now, they wouldn’t mind a few more days to get ready.
But the season is rapidly approaching.
Barry Zito will take the mound as the Giants face the Indians Thursday night. Madison Bumgarner makes his final Cactus League start Friday night against the Royals.
Saturday is a split-squad day, with a day game against the Reds and a nightcap vs. the Indians. Lincecum is due to make his final spring start, but we’re not sure which game he will pitch. Jonathan Sanchez will cap the Arizona portion of the spring schedule against the Royals on Sunday.
On Monday, the Giants return home to open a three-game set against the A’s. Cain would pitch Monday at AT&T Park; Zito goes Tuesday in Oakland and Bumgarner would pitch Wednesday afternoon back at AT&T before the team heads to LA to open the 2011 season at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
Giants fans around the world took a sign of relief. Matt Cain bounced back in his first in-game action in more than two weeks by throwing three scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out one. No walks.
The Brewers went on to beat the Giants 12-8.
Cain, who was sidelined with some elbow inflammation, was only slated to throw two innings. But he sailed through the first two innings in 18 pitches, so he went out again in the third. He finished with 43 pitches, 29 strikes.
“I looked like Matty didn’t miss a beat,” manager Bruce Bochy said.
Now, the challenge is to get Cain back on course to be ready to start the season.
“I think I’ll be fine,” Cain told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’ve been able to do rotator cuff and (scapula) work even when I wasn’t throwing every four days, so I’ve been able to keep my arm strength there.”
Bochy said that Cain will probably get a 60-pitch count on his next outing, perhaps with an extra day of rest.
If he pitches on four-days rest now, he could get three more spring starts before opening the season on the fourth game of the season. If the Giants feel that he only needs two more spring starts, then he can open the season in the No. 3 spot of the rotation that he was projected in.
On the flip side, Jeff Suppan did not have a stellar outing. Suppan, facing the Brewers for the third time this spring, gave up six runs (five earned) on four hits and two walks in one inning of work. His spring ERA shot up to 6.30.
It’s the kind of outing that may take Suppan out of the running for the final spot in the bullpen. He’s currently battling Ryan Vogelsong, Guillermo Mota and Dan Runzler for that spot.
Here are the other highlights:
AUBREY HUFF: Huff-Daddy was 3 for 3 with two runs and three RBI, including a home run to raise his spring average to .333.
PABLO SANDOVAL: Hit his third home run of the spring. He went 1 for 3.
BUSTER POSEY: Had a double in 2 ABs. He’s hitting .458.
ANDRES TORRES: Tripled for the second time in as many days. He’s hitting .379 this spring.