Results tagged ‘ Matt Cain ’

For whatever reason, Cain’s primed for big year

Saturday,  Feb. 18

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Matt Cain would feel determined to perform well under any circumstances. As we know by now, that’s the type of competitor he is.

Yet Cain dropped hints Saturday, as Giants pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training, that he’s especially
motivated to excel this year.

Go ahead and say that Cain’s gearing up for free agency. Imagine that Cain is following the example of others who either adjust their training routine or broaden the repertoire of their skills to bring something fresh to the new season. Whether it’s one factor or the other, or both, Cain appears bent on improving upon his 2011 season, which happened to be the finest of his career in many respects.

“Every year, as an athlete or player, I want to find ways to keep getting better,” said Cain, the longest-tenured Giant who’s entering his seventh full season with the club.

Cain, 27, took steps toward accomplishing that by intensifying his physical conditioning — specifically, his weight
training. By November, Cain was hitting the gym hard. And he didn’t let up.

“I definitely tried to get in a better routine earlier and make sure I was taking care of everything I needed to take care of,” said Cain, who finished 12-11 last year with lifetime bests in ERA (2.88), WHIP (1.083) and home runs allowed per nine innings (a microscopic 0.4).  “… In years past I think I might have been a little more relaxed about staying on that schedule.”

Cain, who said that talks are ongoing between his agents and the Giants, sounded a trifle more intent than he did two weeks ago at FanFest about negotiating a contract extension before the April 6 regular-season opener — or, if a deal can’t be made, plunging into free agency. Negotiating during the season didn’t sound too appealing to him.

“I think we’d all like to have something resolved by the end of Spring Training,” Cain said. “I don’t think either side wants that to linger into the season. I think once the season starts, we all want to be worrying about playing well.”

Cain might have subtly learned a thing or two about focus last weekend while golfing in a foursome with 49ers coach
Jim Harbaugh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

“I thought I was intense. That guy is intense,” Cain said. “But he’s great. We just talked about little things here and there. We didn’t really go into any of the football stuff. It was fun just being able to walk three rounds with him and talk about whatever. Just to be able to get to know someone in another sport is pretty cool.”

Chris Haft

KNBR catches Posey’s thoughts

Wednesday, Feb. 1

SAN FRANCISCO — Virtually everything Buster Posey does during the next few months will make news. That includes his radio appearance Wednesday on KNBR, the Giants’ flagship station.

Posey said nothing outlandish or overly revealing during his 15-minute question-and-answer session with adept morning hosts Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey. But Giants fans are hungry for anything involving Posey, the gifted catcher whose 2011 season ended in a collision resulting from a wayward slide near home plate by Florida’s Scott Cousins. Posey painfully emerged with a fracture and torn ligaments in his left leg.

Posey, the National League Rookie of the Year during the Giants’ charmed 2010 season, is poised to return behind the plate. He and San Francisco’s medical staff aren’t sure how his ankle will handle the rigors of catching, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said that Posey might spend ample time at first base to keep his bat in the lineup and avoid the inevitable physical erosion of his primary position.

Here’s what’s certain right now: Posey, who became a father of twins while sidelined, is eager for any and all challenges. That became clear in his chat on the Murph & Mac show. You can hear the interview in its entirety on KNBR’s website, or you can read the following excerpts:

(Posey will encounter plenty of adoration and love at Saturday’s FanFest at AT&T Park. Does he find it overwhelming?) “I don’t know if it’s overwhelming. It’s a blast. I know it’s something we all look forward to. As much as it is to get the fans fired up, it gets us fired up as well. And we enjoy every bit of it.”

(On fatherhood) “It’s great, it really is. I was just telling my wife the other day that it’s going to be quite an adjustment for me once the season gets going and I’m away a lot and traveling because I’ve been with them a lot these first six months. I’ve enjoyed it; I definitely have.”

(Was that the silver lining to your injury?) “Oh, there’s no question. It’s funny how things work out. Obviously, if I could have avoided the injury, there’s no doubt I would have. But the timing of it, for where we were in our life, really worked out well. Because looking back on it, the team was in Miami when my wife gave birth, so there’s a pretty good chance I wouldn’t have been able to make it back in time. So I felt really fortunate to be there and to have as much time (with the children) as I’ve had these first six months.”

(How much recovery time has he spent in a catcher’s crouch) “I’ve done as much as I think I can without getting in there and playing some games. I think that’s the next step, and fortunately that’s not too far away with Spring Training right around the corner. So I’m very, very happy and pleased with where I am. Obviously, the game situation’s going to be a little bit different, but I’m optimistic and positive that it’s going to be great, just like the rest of this recovery process has been.”

(What were the targets head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and his staff set for you? Are you 100 percent healthy?) “The 100 percent question, it’s tough to say without … To me, you can tell if you’re 100 percent if you can catch 10 games in a row. That’s still to be determined and I’m not sure if that’s realistic or not, but I’m going to do everything I can to be out there as much as I can. But to answer your question about hitting the targets, I think we’ve done that throughout the whole process for the past whatever it’s been — eight months, nine months. Whatever Dave’s laid out there, I feel like we’ve met that and exceeded it at times.”

(Have you been able to block pitches in the dirt?) “Yeah, actually, when I was finishing up my rehab in Arizona in October, I did a little bit of blocking, just straightforward blocking. To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised, because I didn’t think I was going to be that far along at that point. I was hoping just to be taking some BP on the field and running. For my ankle to respond that well, at that point I was happy. Again, I’m positive, but at the same time I want to make sure I keep in my mind that there might be some bumps. Once the games start going, there might be some soreness or whatnot. But I just have to keep that positive attitude and continue pushing forward.”

(If you can’t catch 10 games in a row, are you comfortable with playing first base?) “Yeah, definitely. I think that when I got called up in 2010 and played whatever it was, 30 or 40 games over there at first, just having that in my back pocket will be nice for this year, knowing that I do have a little bit of experience over there.”

(Mike Krukow said you take pride in catching the pitching staff. Would it be difficult to give up those reins? Is it a challenge mentally, more than you’d like, to give it up?) “I don’t know if it’ll be a challenge, because I think that I have to do whatever’s going to be best for the team and what’s best for myself in the long haul of the season. We know it’s a long year. But you’re exactly right. That’s the part about catching I enjoy the most — the thinking, working with the staff and how lucky I am to work with these guys, the caliber of arms that we have. I think you could ask any catcher in the league and the part about catching they enjoy is that, kind of being in control and working through tough situations. Nobody really likes taking a foul tip off the shoulder or anything, but that’s part of it sometimes.”

(So the number of times you catch is something you and Bruce Bochy will discuss. Are you going to fight him or try to argue with him about some things, kind of like you did with your mom and dad to stay up late?) “Oh, I never argued with my mom and dad.”

(Or does what the skipper says, goes?) “I really do think it’s hard to answer that question just because so much is still to be determined. It’s just going to be a matter of how my ankle responds. Like I said before, I want to be behind the plate as much as I can. But I have to be smart about it at the same time.”

(How do you anticipate Spring Training will be different for you?) “… I think the biggest difference will be that there is going to be a schedule, I guess, or more so of a game plan of how much I’m going to catch, when I’m going to catch, because ultimately the most important thing is being ready to go on Opening Day in Arizona. Whatever we have to do in Spring Training to get to that point, that’s what we’re going to do.”

(Do you think last year’s team was on its way to the postseason? Was the late-season collapse frustrating to watch? Did you observe something?) “I think sometimes you just can’t explain why things happen. That’s the beauty of this game. It’s a crazy game. It’s hard to explain sometimes. I do know that I was in the clubhouse and I saw how bad the guys wanted it and how hard they were preparing before games and what they were doing after games, watching video and stuff. It was tough. It was tough on everybody. But it’s a new year now and we’re excited to get back to work and hopefully win as many games as we can this season and get back to the playoffs.”

(On the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan) “I haven’t had a chance to play against Melky, but playing against Pagan a little bit, he’s a tough out. He’s a guy who’s going to grind out at-bats. He’s not somebody I really enjoyed seeing coming to the plate, because I felt like if you get him down to two strikes, he’s going to chip away, he’s going to slap the ball the other way, he’s going to do what he can to get on base. I’m excited for him to be there. And then if you’re a baseball fan, you saw what kind of year Melky had last year. He had a great year. I think with our ballpark, they’re going to be good fits. At the same time, I know I’m going to miss (Andres) Torres. It’s just part of it, but he was a great guy to have around. Same with Ramon (Ramirez). They’ll be missed. But we’re excited to have Pagan and Cabrera coming to the team.”

(Did you observe anything about Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain from the sidelines that gave you a different perspective on them?) “I don’t know. I’ve always felt like to learn, you have to be in the middle of it. There are certain things you can sit back and watch, I guess, but I don’t think there’s any replacement for getting out there and being in the middle of it. Those two guys, they’re such workhorses. You look at the number of innings they throw every year and you talk about their stats and strikeouts and ERA. But to me the impressive part is they’re out there every fifth day. We’ve got that in Madison Bumgarner, too. We’re pretty fortunate to have guys who are such competitors and want to go out there and win each time.”

(Bumgarner: The sky’s the limit for that kid, right? Didn’t you see him grow last year?) “Yeah … I guess that one rough outing with, was it Minnesota, I think, after that — to me, that was a defining moment because it’d be easy to — I guess he gave up eight runs in one-third of an inning or two-thirds of an inning … and then the next time out came out and just dealt. That just shows you what kind of character this guy has. It’s exciting. It’s fun to work with those type of pitchers.”

(How at peace are you with dealing with that night against Marlins? How have you psychologically dealt with that night against the Marlins and how are you psychologically compartmentalizing it in your career?) “It’s done. It’s over with. I feel fortunate that I feel the way I do today. I’m excited to be able to compete and get out and play again. If anything, I think it’ll make me appreciate the game even more, make me appreciate being healthy and able to play. Fortunately, I hadn’t been hurt before that. Something like that really lets you know how quickly the game can be taken away from you. I’m going to enjoy every bit of it and just go with it.”

Chris Haft

Another award for Lincecum; Series lingers in skull

Wednesday, Nov. 10

Tim Lincecum picked up another honor from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, though it wasn’t the Cy Young Award.

Lincecum was elected winner of the Babe Ruth Award as Most Valuable Player of this year’s postseason by the BBWAA’S New York chapter, which is far and away the organization’s most august contingent.

Lincecum posted a 4-1 record with a 2.43 ERA in six postseason appearances (five starts). In 37 innings, Lincecum walked nine and struck out 43.

The right-hander bookended the Giants’ surge to their World Series triumph with impressive outings. On Oct. 7, he opened the Division Series with a breathtaking two-hit, one-walk, 14-strikeout effort in San Francisco’s 1-0 victory over Atlanta. Lincecum concluded his postseason excellence, as well as the team’s,  by pitching eight innings while allowing one run, three hits, walking two and striking out 10 in the Giants’ 3-1 World Series-clinching win at Texas on Nov. 1.

Lincecum, who won the BBWAA’s National League Cy Young Award in each of the previous two years, compiled a 20-11 record, with the postseason added to his regular-season performance.

As fabulous as Lincecum was, the New Yorkers could have selected two other Giants pitchers and nobody would have complained. Matt Cain allowed one unearned run in 21 1/3 innings spanning three starts. Brian Wilson also yielded only an unearned run in 10 appearances while converting six of seven save opportunities and striking out 16 in 11 2/3 innings.

*****

Calling all shrinks! Calling all shrinks!

Every morning since the Giants won it all, I’ve awakened from some sort of World Series-related dream. Today made it nine days in a row.

These subconscious dramas run the gamut from the Series still being in progress to the Giants encountering pitching shortages. As much as I enjoyed covering the Series, I’d like to be free from it for a little while. Something inside of me just won’t let it go. I’m hoping that any day now I’ll rise after imagining that I’m the night watchman at the Playboy Mansion or just finished wandering naked through Union Square or something normal like that.

– Chris Haft

Giants make sensible move with Cain

Early Thursday morning, Sept. 30

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ decision to move Matt Cain ahead a day in the pitching rotation so he can start Friday night’s opener of the climactic series against the San Diego Padres made complete sense.

The move wasn’t engineered solely to give Cain his usual four days’ rest. He actually has started almost as often on five days’ rest (14 times) this season as he has with four days in between (16). He owns a better record on four days’ rest (8-5) than on five (4-5). But Cain’s ERA and WHIP (2.57, 0.982) on five days’ rest are superior to his corresponding figures on four days’ rest (3.34, 1.153).

One reason to hasten Cain’s start by a day is to maximize the Giants’ chances of winning the first game and establishing control in the series. He has been San Francisco’s best pitcher since the All-Star break, as the club has captured 12 of his 14 starts. Personally, he’s 7-2, 2.48 in that span, compared to 6-8. 3.34 before the break.

The shift also keeps Cain and Tim Lincecum separated by two days in their respective turns. When it comes time to set the postseason pitching rotation, it’ll be that much easier for manager Bruce Bochy to make one little tweak and schedule them back-to-back — unless he and the rest of the braintrust decide that continuing to separate them with a left-hander throws enough different looks at the opposition.

Bottom line: These days, when Cain pitches, it seems like a sure win for the Giants.

*****

You, Joe or Josephine Fan, deserve a salute.

You’re showing up at AT&T Park in big numbers, but moreover, you’re enthusiastic as hell. The ballpark atmosphere is intoxicating (in a positive way), and it’s fun to be around.

Moreover, the players have noticed.

“We feed off of that every day,” said closer Brian Wilson, who’s one save shy of tying Rod Beck’s record of 48 set in 1993. “You can feel the crowd getting pumped up through the course of the game. … “They believe in us. And when you have that kind of fan support, it makes baseball a little easier.”

*****

We’ll give San Diego right-hander Mat Latos a break and assume that he’s a poor misguided young soul who just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

As you probably have heard by now, Latos told CBSsports.com’s Scott Miller, “Baseball works in funny ways. The only way I can honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with ‘San Francisco Giants’ across their jerseys. We didn’t. We added two guys [Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada]. We’ve been the same team all year. We haven’t just gone and grabbed guys from other teams.”

So, in the world according to Latos, there’d be no trades, certainly no Trade Deadline, maybe even no Minor League callups — none of the time-honored practices that ballclubs engage in to improve themselves.

Again, maybe Latos was speaking simply out of frustration or sour grapes. One thing’s for sure: If current trends hold up, it looks like the Padres should have added more than two players!

– Chris Haft

Giants still seeking a bat; crowds highlight weekend

Sunday, Aug. 1

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants acquired two relief pitchers before Saturday’s Trade Deadline and led the National League with 149 runs scored in July. This combination suggested that the Giants are satisfied with their offense.

Wrong.

Insiders believe that the Giants will continue to actively pursue performers who can upgrade their offense. The process becomes a little more challenging now that a player must clear waivers before he can be traded. But engineering a deal is hardly impossible.

So many players get placed on waivers at this time of year that it’ll be easy for one or two of the hitters San Francisco sought to slip through. Exactly which ones might become available to the Giants is too difficult to determine. But consider management ready to pounce.

*****

Various Giants agreed that the sellout crowds for the Dodgers series were more inspirational than usual. Perhaps because the vast majority of the spectators were Giants fans. Often, the audience is a little more divided.

“When you have over 40,000 roaring for you, it does something for the players,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They wanted to get the sweep for the fans.”

Matt Cain was frequently the object of Sunday’s cheering. But the right-hander concentrates so intensely that the noise melts away from him.

“It’s weird. You get out there and you don’t hear it as much,” Cain said. “Sometimes maybe you hear it between pitches or in certain situations. But it’s one of those things you definitely feel but sometimes don’t hear.”

*****

Cain broke a personal trend — actually, several of them — while recording his first career victory over the Dodgers.

Five Dodgers entered the game batting .290 or higher lifetime against Cain: Rafael Furcal (.357), James Loney (.345), Casey Blake (.300), Matt Kemp (.296) and Russell Martin (.290). Andre Ethier (.514) received an excused absence to be with his wife, who was delivering their child.

Furcal, Loney, Blake, Kemp and Martin combined for two hits in 16 at-bats. Nothing to it.

*****

Cain also received ample defensive support. First baseman Aubrey Huff made a remarkable stop of Xavier Paul’s one-hop smash in the fifth inning. Center fielder Aaron Rowand dove to snare Furcal’s line drive one inning later.

Cain delivered a succinct appraisal of those plays.

“I thought if the ball stayed up enough for Rowand, that seems to be a play he makes so many times,” Cain said. “I’m hoping and praying, ‘Stay up, stay up, stay up,’ and it did.<p/>

“Now, Huffy, he’s going to brag and say that he’s a special athlete and he’s going to make that play 10 out of 10 times. I’m pretty sure it found his glove. But he did a great job of being able to pick it for us.”

*****

Javier Lopez distinguished himself in his Giants debut by inducing Scott Podsednik’s inning-ending comebacker in the eighth after Cain yielded Jamey Carroll’s two-out single. Welcome to San Francisco!

– Chris Haft

Care & feeding of teammates; Ishikawa’s flip-flop

Monday, July 26

Eugenio Velez sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at Chase Field after the Giants’ 3-2, 10-inning victory Sunday, dressed in street clothes and wearing a serene look. He probably felt lucky to be alive after surviving the concussion he sustained Saturday when Pat Burrell’s foul line drive struck him on the left side of the head.

The rest of the Giants were minding their own business, engaging in the hustle and bustle of preparing for a getaway day flight back to San Francisco. Since the Giants had won, the clubhouse stereo was happily blaring some dreadful-sounding music.

Suddenly Matt Cain approached Velez and asked him a question. “Is that too loud?” Cain asked, referring to the music’s volume. Velez shook his head, acknowledging things were fine.

But it certainly was nice of Cain to ask, since everybody knew Velez’s head was still pounding from the concussion. And it was another of the often unseen demonstrations of the bond that teammates share.

*****

This might be the season’s most hilarious statistic so far. Travis Ishikawa, who hit .349 at home and .162 on the road last year, has undergone a complete reversal. Ishikawa’s currently hitting .368 on the road and .267 at home.

“Well, now they’re going to ask me why can’t I hit at home,” Ishikawa jokingly said.

He added, “You have a lot better chance to hit on the road. AT&T Park, no matter how you look at it, is not a hitter’s park.”

– Chris Haft

Food for thought: Cain or Lincecum?

Thursday, June 3

Matt Cain’s surge and Tim Lincecum’s slump might lead some to ponder a question that’s familiar to some Giants fans: Which right-hander will have a more productive career?

While the season is raging, the proper answer is, “Does it matter?” The Giants need both Cain and Lincecum to thrive to have any hope of reaching the postseason.

Still, this is a question many fans will continue to raise, and it is somewhat intriguing. Obviously, Lincecum has had much more early success with his two National League Cy Young Awards. But will Cain, with his classic pitcher’s build, outlast the undersized Lincecum?

At some point, the answer may become obvious. For now, the politically correct view is: Enjoy them both.

*****

Judging from the players’ visceral reaction, the Giants felt sick for Detroit’s Armando Galarraga, who lost a perfect game Wednesday due to umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call.

Yet a handful of veteran Giants also felt badly for Joyce, who they described as a decent man.

Joyce proved that by admirably owning up to his mistake. His error was profoundly egregious, but perhaps his accountability will endure as long as his goof.

The upshot of all this will be an increased presence of instant replay in baseball, if not all sports. Bank on it.

*****

Galarraga’s imperfect game overshadowed what normally would have been the day’s biggest story: Ken Griffey Jr.’s retirement. Here’s what Lincecum, a Seattle-area native who grew up watching Griffey, had to say about the slugger:

“He was the epitome of Seattle baseball, pretty much, him and Randy [Johnson]. He was that new face, they called him ‘The Kid,’ he was making those spectacular catches and always seemed like he was having fun. Almost like watching a different Pablo [Sandoval] … He had one of the prettiest swings I’ve ever seen.”
 
One enduring memory Lincecum doubtlessly shares with many Mariners fans is the sight of Griffey scoring the winning run in the 1995 Division Series against the Yankees and quickly being engulfed by overjoyed teammates. “I think that’s what a lot of us remember,” Lincecum said.
 
Lincecum also will treasure the memory of meeting Griffey for the first time in Spring Training this year. As Lincecum was interviewed after a Cactus League game at the Mariners’ training complex, Griffey parted a group of reporters to shake hands with the pitcher. “I went ‘uh’ — it kind of caught me off-guard,” Lincecum said. “Obviously it was a pleasant surprise for me.”
 
Lincecum recalled the little-boy feeling that stars like Griffey and Johnson gave him and his peers: “Those guys were gods of our worlds.”
 
 Chris Haft

RF up for grabs; long look for Posey; new pact for Cain?

Friday, March 26
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will be the Giants’ Opening Day right fielder.

Schierholtz was virtually handed the right-field job before Spring Training began, but his pedestrian offense and John Bowker’s torrid hitting prompted the Giants’ braintrust to rethink matters.

Schierholtz is a superior defender who has proven capable of handling AT&T Park’s tricky acreage in right field. But he’s batting .234 with a .280 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts in 47 at-bats this spring. By contrast, Bowker began Friday tied for the Major League lead with 18 RBIs — due largely to his seven-RBI outburst Wednesday against Kansas City — and is hitting .298 with a .596 slugging percentage and a team-high four home runs.

Bowker also has been strikeout-prone, with 11 in 57 at-bats.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean confirmed that Schierholtz had slipped from his all-but-certain starting perch.

“He’s struggled to the point where you have to pay due respect to the other guys who are going well, including Bowker,” Sabean said Friday.

The Giants’ other reserve outfield candidates are Fred Lewis, who’s batting .222 but has a .528 slugging percentage; Andres Torres, who’s hitting .289 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .578 slugging percentage; and Eugenio Velez, a .298 hitter.<p/>

Referring to the preponderance of qualified outfielders, Sabean said, “Maybe our bigger challenge is how many infielders we keep over outfielders.” He cited left fielder Mark DeRosa, who can play every infield spot, and Velez, who made his first Cactus League appearance at second base Friday and booted a grounder for an error, as “dual-position guys” who can provide flexibility.

*****

Sabean also said that the Giants will keep Buster Posey with them through the conclusion of the exhibition season — though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the organization’s top prospect will make the Opening Day roster.

Reading between the lines of what Sabean said, it seems — <i>seems</i> — that Posey will begin the season with Triple-A Fresno. If that’s the case, Posey probably will join the Giants at the first sign of trouble.

“We’ll keep him to the end,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that the actual decision will need to go to the end. I think, internally, we know what we’re going to do, but obviously we’re going to hold that close to the vest because it’s subject to change and you never know what might happen.”

With the Giants trailing, 3-2, in Friday’s eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels, Posey hit a windblown ground-rule double that tied the score and lifted his average to .415 with nine RBIs. He has a .442 on-base percentage and a .585 slugging percentage. Manager Bruce Bochy said that there are no plans to try Posey at any position other than catcher and first base.

*****

Friday ended with no official announcement regarding the reported contract extensions for relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. This prompted speculation that the Giants are engineering an extension for a third player.

A likely suspect is right-hander Matt Cain, whose ridiculously affordable $6.25 club option for 2011 surely will be picked up by the Giants barring a disaster. It would behoove the Giants to reach an agreement with Cain. Otherwise, they’d enter the 2011-12 offseason facing the burden of negotiating with both Cain and Tim Lincecum, whose two-year deal will have expired.

– Chris Haft

Cain looks ready for regular season

March 23
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Matt Cain had every right to feel tired Tuesday. But he didn’t look fatigued at all.

Cain recorded the longest Cactus League outing by a Giants starter so far, working 6 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The Giants improved their Major League-best spring record to 16-6 with their sixth consecutive victory and seventh in their last eight games.

Cain surrendered just three hits. Fifth-inning fielding errors committed by first baseman Aubrey Huff and second baseman Matt Downs largely accounted for the lone, unearned run Cain yielded.

Though Cain pitched six innings in his previous appearance, a Minor League exhibition game last Thursday,the deepest he had gone in an exhibition game was a mere three innings. He relished the opportunity to push himself.

“You get to that kind of tired point and you have to start using your legs,” Cain said. “That’s what you want to get to toward the end of spring, to be able to carry that over into the season.”

Cain issued his first walk of the exhibition season when Paul Konerko drew a free pass with two outs in the fourth inning. That remained Cain’s lone walk in 15 1/3 innings this spring. The right-hander struck out just two batters but recorded several outs early in the count, helping him stay on the mound longer.

Cain augmented his effectiveness by using his slider for the first time this spring. “I’m feeling pretty good about everything,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure I can hit both sides of the plate with my fastball and throw strikes with my offspeed stuff.”

*****

The afternoon’s oddest play occurred in the fourth inning, when Chicago’s Gordon Beckham led off with a popup behind the mound. Huff and shortstop Edgar Renteria converged on the ball and collided. Renteria nevertheless caught the ball and held onto it while Huff fell over backward. Still on the ground, Huff pointed at Renteria as he asked him whether he made the catch.

“I will say, Huff wanted the ball,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

*****

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval ended his three-game absence in fine fashion by doubling twice in four at-bats, scoring a run and driving in one. “He didn’t look like he missed a beat,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who needed five stitches to close a cut on his right ankle last Friday after he slid into Cleveland catcher Lou Marson’s shinguard.

– Chris Haft

Posey stays hot; what will Giants do?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants will face some heavy thinking if Buster Posey sustains his offensive surge.

Posey collected two hits for the second day in a row Saturday in the Giants’ 8-7 split-squad exhibition loss to Oakland. The rookie catcher, renowned as San Francisco’s top position-player prospect, lifted his batting average to .368 and his slugging percentage to .632.

Because Posey has been expected to begin the season with Triple-A Fresno so he could gain experience, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if the 22-year old might be forcing the Giants’ braintrust to reconsider that plan.

“It’s good to see Buster swinging like this,” Bochy said. “It’s really a matter of time. Buster can hit. As we get deeper into spring I can answer those questions a little better. It’s early, but he’s doing what we wanted him to do.”

Bochy plainly stated that he won’t bury Posey on San Francisco’s bench. “We want to continue his development. We don’t want him sitting,” Bochy said. “It’s a matter of if we think he would get enough playing time to warrant being on the club to help us or to continue his progress so we have him ready.”

Bochy added that Posey “possibly” will start a game at first base to help the Giants gauge whether he could play there occasionally. But Bochy also reiterated that he won’t sacrifice Posey’s growth as a catcher to experiment with him at other positions. “I like the way he’s catching. I want to keep him sharp back there,” Bochy said.

*****

In quick succession:

– Tim Lincecum will receive four days’ rest, his full regular-season complement, before making his next start Tuesday against Cleveland. Madison Bumgarner will start Monday night’s split-squad game against Texas while a host of relievers will work the evening’s other split-squad game against San Diego.

– Kevin Pucetas remained in contention for the fifth starter’s spot by throwing three hitless innings in the Giants’ other split-squad contest, an 8-4 victory over Seattle. Pucetas is unscored upon in seven innings spanning three appearances and has allowed three hits. He has walked none and struck out three.

– Right-hander Joe Martinez, the fifth starter candidate who allowed four runs in one inning in his lone spring appearance, believes that the inflammation in his throwing elbow will have subsided enough to allow him to resume throwing in a couple of days.

– This isn’t shocking news, but Bochy made his strongest declaration yet regarding second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s unavailability for the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston. “He’s not going to be ready,” Bochy said of Sanchez, who’s recovering from a left shoulder injury. “He’s come along fine, but there’s not enough time.”

– First baseman Travis Ishikawa (torn ligaments in left foot) might be ready to resume playing in about a week, Bochy said.

– Right-hander Matt Cain admitted that he elevated some breaking pitches while allowing Oakland five runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. However, Cain still hasn’t walked a batter in 8 2/3 innings this spring. “It obviously means you’re around the strike zone,” Cain said, pleased with this development.

– Right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, stuck in the Dominican Republic with visa problems, finally arrived in camp and struck out the only batter he faced, Ryan Sweeney, to end the fifth inning against Oakland.

– Chris Haft

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