Giants

Cain 'more than satisfied' after five shutout innings in final big league start

Cain 'more than satisfied' after five shutout innings in final big league start

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Cain walked into the clubhouse Saturday morning and found himself confronted by … Matt Cain. A whole lot of Matt Cain.

Every TV in the clubhouse was showing a Cain highlight reel filled with his postseason strikeouts, moments from early in his career, and the most memorable plays of his perfect game. Cain thought it was awkward. He also thought it was kind of cool. He snuck a peak for a few minutes before changing the channel on the television hanging over his locker. A few hours later, he surprised even himself when he added one last gem to a highlight reel full of them. 

Cain went out with five shutout innings in the 331st and final start of his big league career. On a day full of emotion and ovations, he let the crowd and his teammates carry him to the finish line. 

“I’m more than satisfied,” he said, his voice cracking at times. “I was kind of surprised to get that far into the game. I’m pretty proud of being able to go out there and throw five innings today, but that honestly was the excitement of the fans and my teammates pushing me along. That didn’t have anything to do with me. I was riding their wave.”

For so many years, the Giants let Cain keep them afloat. The 2002 draftee spent 13 seasons in the big leagues, helping build the base of the sport’s latest dynasty. Cain will forever be remembered in this ballpark for his durability, his postseason success, and the night he was perfect. But for his teammates, he’ll be remembered for much more than that. He was the consummate leader, a prankster who kept the room loose, a mentor, and a player credited with bringing title teams together. There might have been some doubt about how long Cain would last in his first appearance since August 31, but there was no doubt about the way he would be received after his final big league pitch. 

“Guys were crying in the dugout,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s how much they care about the guy.”

So many parts of this day lined up perfectly. Cain spent days wondering if Ted Barrett, the home plate umpire for his perfect game, would be on this crew. When he got to the park Friday, he found that Barrett was indeed lined up for his final start. Barrett watched as Cain walked off the field for the final time, and in a fitting touch, Cain began and ended the celebration by hugging the two players who will now take over as the longest-tenured Giants. 

Buster Posey was waiting for Cain at the dugout entrance, and he delivered one final Buster Hug. Madison Bumgarner was waiting at the end of the line of teammates. He wrapped Cain in a bear hug, lifting him off the ground. The two have been close friends since the moment Bumgarner burst into camp, when he asked Cain — the veteran — how to pitch to Manny Ramirez. Cain told him to throw heaters inside. Bumgarner promptly went out and repeatedly threw 96 on the hands. Cain remembered telling himself that he couldn’t wait to hand the reins over to the young lefty. 

“I don’t think it could have been more fitting than to have Bum at the end of the line,” Cain said. 

The moment came at the end of an inning because of a trait that Cain and Bumgarner are both known for. Physically spent, Cain dug deep to give Bochy just a couple more outs. His day had started with several standing ovations, and he said he rode adrenaline for the first couple of innings. By the third, he was relying on the lone voices that kept breaking through a crowd of 40,000. 

“I could hear two or three guys for some reason, going, ‘Come on, Cainer!” he said. 

In the dugout, teammates were whispering the same thing. Bochy tried to will him along, but he had Derek Law and Ty Blach warm up just in case. Bochy had originally hoped to pull Cain in the middle of an inning so he could soak in the cheers, but as Cain got through the fourth and into the fifth, he decided the right-hander deserved a shot at career win No. 105. When Cain walked Cory Spangenberg to lead off the fifth, that plan looked shot. 

Bochy walked out to the mound, moving quickly to show Cain that a conversation would be had. The infielders gathered on the mound and Bochy asked Cain to be honest about how he felt. 

“I think I can get another hitter or two,” he said. 

Bochy walked back to the dugout, boos having turned to cheers. Cain looked in at Posey, knowing he had not been entirely truthful. 

“I was done,” Cain said. “(But) I told him I could get a couple more outs.”

Cain struck out Austin Hedges and tried to do the same with a two-strike curveball to Jhoulys Chacin. The opposing pitcher rolled it over to short, putting the final touch on a career that lasted 2,085 and 2/3 innings. 

Bochy met Cain at the top step of the dugout. He wanted the fans to know that Cain’s day was done and the celebration was on. The ovation lasted about a minute, with Cain putting an exclamation point on it by flinging his hat into the seats. He came back out for a curtain call after the hug with Bumgarner, tears filling his eyes. 

What happened next was as predictable as Cain’s ability to gut through one final inning. The Giants blew a lead twice and lost 3-2 to the Padres. Cain finished his career 104-118, with 109 no-decisions as a starter. On many of those nights, he deserved much better. 

The fact that Cain never complained about his situation is just a part of his legacy, and it’s a trait that has been passed on to a new generation of Giants pitchers. Bochy hopes Cain continues to teach those lessons, and the Giants expect him to have some kind of future role with the organization. 

For now, Cain said he doesn't want to rush into anything. He wants to take a deep breath, take some time with his wife and kids, and figure out the next steps as they come. The organization will celebrate Cain throughout Sunday’s season finale, and he said he hopes to take the mic after the final pitch and thank the fans. It’s a lock that he’ll do it. Bochy said Cain can do whatever he wants on his final day in orange and black.

“He can manage if he wants,” Bochy said, smiling. “Honestly, I haven’t done too well.”

Dodgers acquire Kemp in five-player trade, including former Giants infielder

kemp-us.jpg
USATSI

Dodgers acquire Kemp in five-player trade, including former Giants infielder

Matt Kemp is returning to the place where he began his major league career, reacquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Atlanta Braves that creates more financial flexibility for the reigning NL champions.

The Dodgers sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, oft-injured starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, infielder Charlie Culberson and cash to Atlanta for the 33-year-old Kemp.

Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause after receiving assurance from the Braves that he would be designated for assignment since they are already set at first base with Freddie Freeman.

"This allows him the opportunity to go and find some playing time," new Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.

After sitting on the sidelines during the recent winter meetings, the Dodgers moved quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018. Kemp is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons.

Los Angeles was looking to reduce baseball's highest payroll of $240 million last season as a way of lowering exposure to higher luxury taxes.

The deal made sense for the Braves, too, since the players they acquired all have expiring contracts.

"It puts us in an even greater financial position going forward and going into next offseason as well," said Anthopoulos, who was hired from the Dodgers.

Kemp played for the Dodgers from 2006-14, hitting 182 home runs, fourth-most in Los Angeles history. The outfielder hit .276 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs and 23 doubles in 115 games last season with the Braves.

Moving Kemp opens up a potential roster spot for top Braves prospect Ronald Acuna, who turns 20 on Monday. He was the most valuable player of the Arizona Fall League and Baseball America's minor league player of the year.

"We expect Ronald Acuna to be a very good player for a very long time," Anthopoulos said. "When he's ready to go, we're going to look to make room for him and certainly a deal like this won't hurt."

The 35-year-old Gonzalez helped the Dodgers win five straight NL West division titles after being acquired from the Red Sox in August 2012. He was an All-Star in 2015 and led the NL in RBIs in 2014, but went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back last season for the first time in his career. He was usurped at first base by NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.

Gonzalez is owed $21.5 million in the final year of a $154 million, seven-year contract that the Dodgers absorbed in the 2012 trade with Boston.

Kazmir didn't pitch last season because of a hip injury, one of many in his career. The 33-year-old left-hander went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts in 2016, his first with the Dodgers. He is owed $15 million in 2018.

"I spoke to him and he's pretty encouraged and excited about the work he's been able to do in the offseason, so we're excited to get a look at him in camp," Anthopoulos said. "If we can get him back and he can bounce back, there's certainly some upside there."

McCarthy was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 29 starts over three seasons with the Dodgers. The 34-year-old right-hander missed most of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He went on the DL three times last season, when he was limited to 19 appearances and went 6-4 with a 3.98 ERA.

McCarthy was added to the Dodgers' World Series roster after missing the first two rounds. He gave up a home run in extra innings of a Game 2 loss to Houston in his only appearance. He is owed $12 million in the last year of a $48 million, four-year deal.

Anthopoulos said he sees McCarthy being in the Braves' rotation, which needs a veteran arm after not re-signing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and releasing Bartolo Colon during last season.

"He came back at the end of the year and was on the World Series roster because of how good he looked, how good his stuff was, up to 94 (mph) and he started throwing a slider that h

Giants gain payroll flexibility, trade Matt Moore to Texas

matt-moore-ap.jpg
AP

Giants gain payroll flexibility, trade Matt Moore to Texas

On the first night of the Winter Meetings, Giants officials indicated they planned to stay under the $197 million luxury tax line. On the last night of the Winter Meetings, general manager Bobby Evans said he had offers in hand that would allow the club to shed payroll. Friday, it all came together. 

The Giants traded Matt Moore and international bonus pool money to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league right-handers Sam Wolff and Israel Cruz. The deal costs them their No. 4 starter, but also gives the Giants an extra $9 million to play with as they look to fill multiple holes. The Giants previously had only about $10 million to spend before reaching the tax line for a fourth straight year, but they now have nearly $20 million as they look for upgrades in center field, right field and third base. 

“This move allows us to reallocate our resources to address our position player needs,” Evans said. “In addition, we are pleased to add two power arms to our system. Our focus remains to strengthen our outfield defense and our everyday lineup.”

Moore, 28, was acquired at the deadline in 2016 in exchange for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. The results were mixed. Moore was a boost to the rotation down the stretch that year and would have gone down as a postseason hero for the Giants had the bullpen not blown Game 4 of the NLDS. He had a 5.52 ERA in 2017, but at the same time, the Giants always felt the trade was worth it. Duffy missed the entire season with an Achilles issue and Fox, while an intriguing prospect, remains far from the big leagues. 

The Giants believed Moore could bounce back next year, and they never waffled with his 2018 option, even though at times it seemed they shouldn't pick it up. Team officials said this week that Moore was already in the Phoenix area working with new pitching coach Curt Young, and they expected big things. 

Instead, Moore is headed to the Rangers and the Giants will dive back into the free agent market. They can fill their starting hole internally, with Ty Blach and Chris Stratton as holdovers and top pitching prospect Tyler Beede viewed as being big league ready. Left-hander Andrew Suarez also is close to being ready for a big league shot. 

Wolff, 26, had a 2.98 ERA as a reliever in Double-A and Triple-A last season. Cruz is just 20 years old and spent last season in rookie ball. He is years away, but this was a deal made with 2018 in mind. 

The Giants dealt from a rare area of strength, and now they'll have a chance to try to bolster a lineup that failed their starters, including Moore.