Cain goes five strong, solidifies hold on rotation spot

Cain goes five strong, solidifies hold on rotation spot

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Cain has tried not to think about his tenuous hold on a rotation spot, and the organization would never come out publicly and say a pitcher is out there on a start-by-start basis. But there was no hiding the fact that the Giants have for weeks pinpointed next week as a potentially big one for the back of the rotation. 

Cain’s spot could have been skipped, and had he gotten off to an awful start this month, that could have been the first of many changes. Instead, Cain will start Tuesday in Kansas City, manager Bruce Bochy said. That was solidified with five sharp innings in a 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks.

“I think you have to (change your thinking), the way he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “His command, he had four pitches going tonight, he had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well. He found a way to get it done.

“I thought that was just a huge outing for him and a good one to build on.”

Cain scattered five hits and walked three. All six of his strikeouts came during a dominant 10-batter stretch after a shaky first inning. After two years of barely contributing at the plate, Cain got the Giants going with a double off Shelby Miller. He raced home from second on Denard Span’s hard single to center. Cain started to run out of gas in the sixth, but when he put the first two on, Cory Gearrin entered and struck out three straight. For the bullpen, this night meant just a tad bit more than your average April win. Cain has greeted every one of these guys, whether they’re coming in as free agents or coming up as rookies.

“It was awesome,” Gearrin said. “He did everything tonight that you can do. He’s hitting doubles in the gap and pitching outstanding. It’s fun for us as a bullpen to come off of that. He really set the tone tonight.”

Cain’s final line was not dominant, but it was plenty for a fifth starter. In this rotation, that’s all the Giants are asking of Cain. They need Ty Blach in their bullpen and they need Tyler Beede to get some more seasoning, and Bochy believes that Cain’s continued presence in the rotation can pay big dividends down the line. On Wednesday, he compared him to Barry Zito. 

“This is something that he’s earned when you look at what he’s done for us,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some championships because of this guy. I’m going back to Barry Zito and he had his ups and downs. We stayed with him and he helped win us a World Series with those starts in St. Louis and Detroit. I feel the same way about Matty."

--- The bullpen struck out six in four innings, and nobody was sharper than Gearrin. He was very, very happy to be back in San Francisco, where the thick air allows him to shape the ball in ways that simply aren’t possible in Arizona. Gearrin threw one two-seamer that moved so much it was categorized as a slider by Pitch F/X.

--- On a normal night, Nick Hundley’s seventh-inning blast to right would have been the rare right-handed homer into the arcade. On a normal night, Jarrett Parker’s shot might have cleared the kale out there in center field. They settled for a double and triple, respectively. Bochy was especially enthused by Parker’s swing, the best one he’s taken all season. 

“Good for Park,” he said. “I think he’s been pressing a little bit. Against the wind, that ball was crushed. Hopefully that gets his confidence back. It’s tough for these kids. When the season starts, there’s more attention to the numbers and guys can press a little bit.”

--- If you missed the pre-game show, Tim Flannery and Matt Williams had one of the best inside-baseball conversations you’ll see on TV while talking about signs at third base. You can watch the whole thing here. 

Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster


Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Corey Seager has been left off the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers announced Seager's surprise omission due to a back injury on Saturday, several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.

Chicago made only one change from the last playoff round, adding reliever Hector Rondon and removing reliever Justin Wilson.

Seager complained of back soreness during the Dodgers' NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn't participate in team workouts this week. Still, manager Dave Roberts said Friday that he was very optimistic that Seager would play in the NLCS.

Seager was an All-Star selection this season while batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs as a key part of the top of the Dodgers' lineup.

Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Culberson all worked out at shortstop Friday for the Dodgers. The versatile Taylor was the Dodgers' center fielder during the NLDS, but he made 96 appearances in the outfield this season and 44 in the infield, including 14 games at shortstop.

Pederson is batting .071 with no homers since July, but the Dodgers could need him in center field if Taylor plays shortstop.

Culberson famously homered to clinch the Dodgers' NL West title in announcer Vin Scully's final home game last season, but the infielder spent most of this season at Triple-A, appearing in only 14 games for the Dodgers.

Rondon was the Cubs' closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman's arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.

Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran left-handed reliever who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn't great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.

Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers.

Bochy, Giants issue statement following manager's heart procedure


Bochy, Giants issue statement following manager's heart procedure

Bruce Bochy's minor offseason heart procedure went as planned, the team announced Friday afternoon. 

In a message passed along to beat reporters, Bochy said "the procedure went extremely well and I'm feeling better. I'm grateful for the doctors and want to thank everyone who has reached out with well wishes."

Bochy, 62, had an ablation procedure to help him deal with heart issues that have plagued him in recent years. The operation was his second of the year, but it was considered minor enough that it could be pushed back to the end of the season.

Cleveland's Terry Francona had a similar procedure this year and returned to manage, and Bochy has left no doubt about his future. 

“I don’t want anyone to think this has an effect on my work, or ability to work,” Bochy said last week. “This is something that is not uncommon.”