MLB: Cain emerges from Lincecum’s shadow
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Matt Cain has built a pretty good resume working in the shadow of two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.
In 2009, a breakout season for Cain, he was 14-8 with a 2.89 ERA and eight complete games. It was his third straight season off logging at least 200 innings — in ’06 he had 190 2-3 innings and finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
All those innings make it seem like Cain has been around longer than he has, but he is only 25.
There is no particular secret to his success — just simple, hard work.
“I try to keep my body in good shape,” said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Cain.
He took about a month off after the end of the 2009 season before resuming workouts, and started throwing again in January.
Now Cain is heating up again for real. He has looked strong in bullpen and during batting practice sessions, and is expected to get his first Cactus League start against Colorado on Friday.
One of his primary goals this spring, “is cutting down on my walks. I’m trying to be a more consistent pitcher.
“I think one of the keys is to try and stay relaxed, stick to your routine, not get too excited when you’re out there,” he said.
Eli Whiteside caught a handful of Cain’s starts last season, and was impressed by the pitcher’s approach.
“He’s just got that mentality where he goes right after the hitters, says ’Here it is,”’ Whiteside said. “He is smart out there. He is able to adjust as the game goes along.”
Part of that adjustment comes as the result of communicating with the catchers in between innings.
The Giants expect a minimum of six or seven innings out of Cain each time out, Whiteside said, “and that’s usually what you get. He keeps you in the game, and that’s all you can ask.”
If the Giants get ahead early, all the better. It helps Cain maintain his focus.
“When you get that early lead, you have to make sure you keep it,” Cain said. “That’s what “RJ” (former Giants pitcher Randy Johnson) kept telling us last year, and it kind of stuck with me.”
Cain is looking forward to working with his fellow pitchers this season, particularly the starting rotation, which returns virtually intact — Lincecum, Cain and left-handers Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez.
“We’re definitely a group that pushes each other,” Cain said.
NOTES: Rain limited a portion of Sunday’s work, although pitchers did get a chance to throw in the covered cages and got in some conditioning. ... Veteran left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt threw for the second straight day, “to see how it would feel,” according to manager Bruce Bochy. Affeldt would be the likely candidate to step into the closer’s role if Brian Wilson went down with an injury, Bochy said. ... Right-hander Kevin Pucetas, who was 10-6 in 28 starts for Triple-A Fresno, has caught Bochy’s eye. ... The team will play an intrasquad game on Monday. The scheduled pitchers are non-roster invitees Rafael Cova, Craig Clark, Clayton Tanner, Dan Turpen, Craig Whitaker and Tony Pena Jr. Starting position players are not expected to play.