The horse rides off: Matt Cain to retire at end of 2017 season

The horse rides off: Matt Cain to retire at end of 2017 season

Programming note: Watch the encore presentation of Matt Cain's perfect game from 2012 -- This Saturday, Sept. 30 immediately following Warriors basketball  at 8 p.m. and Sunday morning Oct. 1, at 8 a.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

PHOENIX -- The Giants have spent weeks working on a plan to have Matt Cain make one final start for them this weekend. Cain announced Wednesday that Saturday's appearance will actually be the last one of his big league career. 

Before the final road game of his 13th big league season, Cain held a closed-doors meeting to tell his teammates that he will retire. He announced his intentions to the media a few minutes later.

"This weekend will definitely be my last time putting on a Giants uniform, and I can't see myself going anywhere else to play with another team," Cain said. "This organization has meant so much to me and so much to my family. It's something that's dear to my heart. I'm just grateful that it's been a part of my life. I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed it so much."

Cain, who turns 33 on Sunday, will be the fourth player in franchise history to play their entire career with the Giants and play at least 10 seasons. He joins Jim Davenport, Scott Garrelts and Robby Thompson. Cain said playing only for the Giants was a big factor in his decision. 

"I feel like that's what makes this a little easier," he said. "I started in 2002 getting picked up by the Giants and I know that's the way I'm going to go out. I can't picture myself putting a different uniform on."

Cain was the first round pick for the Giants in 2002 and made his MLB debut in 2005. The longest-tenured Giant has 104 career wins and a 3.69 ERA. He will finish with 331 regular season starts with the Giants, second in their San Francisco history. Juan Marichal started 446 games for the San Francisco Giants. 

Cain threw the only perfect game in franchise history in June of 2012 and saved his best for the biggest moments. In eight postseason starts, Cain had a 2.10 ERA. He pitched the clinching game in all three series during the 2012 title run. 

Cain made three All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young Award voting twice before arm injuries slowed his career. He has dealt with several ailments since winning the second of three titles, but throughout, Cain has been one of the most respected players in the clubhouse and a sounding board for waves of young pitchers. 

Cain said he made the decision over the past week and told Bobby Evans, Bochy, Dave Righetti and some longtime teammates on Tuesday. When he announced on Tuesday that Cain would make one more start, Bochy said it would be a special day for the entire organization. 

"With what he's done for the Giants organization, he's been here since day one with me, and I wanted him to make this start at home," Bochy said. "I'm sure it's going to be emotional for him. It's important for us and for Matt to have a start there the last homestand. Matt has been great through all of this and he has provided leadership. This is going to be a special game for him and for us."

The moment will mark the end of an era in franchise history. Cain saw it all, and he said that's what he'll remember most about his time in orange and black. Asked for his greatest moment, he pointed to the growth of the organization. 

"Hey, you know what, we had some amazing seasons and won it all," he said. "Not many people get to see the bottom of the barrel and the top of the barrel. That's really special to me."

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”