Giants

After long debut, Cain says he's on track for Opening Day

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After long debut, Cain says he's on track for Opening Day

SCOTTSDALE — Matt Cain was 0 for 16 at the plate in 2015, going hitless for the first time in his big league career. Batting eighth on Friday, Cain had two singles in the second inning alone. 

“I don’t know what happened on those,” Cain said later. “I got lucky. I swung and they hit the bat somehow.”

The contributions at the plate were nice, but the Giants were worried about another column in the box score: pitch count. Cain got to 52 in 2 2/3 innings Friday, which should easily put him on line to make his scheduled season debut April 8, despite missing most of the first month of camp after having a cyst removed from his pitching arm. 

“I believe it will,” Cain said. “Obviously, we’ll see (how I feel) tomorrow. Bounce back and let’s keep it going. We’ve had good success with it. The arm felt fine. Everything felt fine.”

[PAVLOVIC: Bochy will take look at lineup with pitcher hitting eighth]

Cain’s catcher used more gushing language.

“I don’t say it lightly — I really thought his stuff was good from the bullpen to the game,” Buster Posey said. “I was really happy with it. I hope he felt the same.”

Posey said Cain’s breaking ball had great depth and rotation, and his fastball had good late life. That’s always been a key for Cain, and it was there Friday. The one issue was fastball command, which led to three walks. In all, Cain gave up seven hits and three earned runs.

Cain was off when he first took the mound, walking Jon Jay on four pitches. After a double play, Matt Kemp lined a single to right. Cain walked Wil Myers on four pitches but got out of the jam when Alexei Ramirez hit a lazy fly to center. 

The second inning was a bit hairier. Cain gave up a one-out triple to Alexi Amarista and an RBI single to Austin Hedges. The Padres scored another run on back-to-back two-out singles, but Cain got out of the inning when Matt Duffy cut off a throw from the outfield and caught Jay creeping too far on the bases. 

Manager Bruce Bochy said before the game that he hoped Cain would get through two innings, but he came out for the third. It didn’t go all that well, but as Bochy often says during the spring, Cain “got his work in.” He gave up a solo homer to Kemp and was pulled with two outs and two on. Cain said he was aiming for about 45 pitches but felt so strong that he told pitching coach Dave Righetti they could stretch it out a bit.

While Bochy has told Cain not to rush back, the right-hander is clearly eager to be ready the opening week. Cain has three spring starts remaining, and the Giants just need him in the 80-plus range before taking the ball against the Dodgers on April 8. Cain said he does not want to start a second straight year on the disabled list.

“It’s not fun,” he said. “The long stint I was on, it was not fun. It’s not something you want to see as an athlete, seeing guys take the field and not being a part of it.”

If Cain is in the rotation from the start, he’s not just along to fill innings. Bochy was adamant before the game that Cain is not a No. 5 starter. He expects more, and Posey does, too. 

“We’re counting on him big time,” Posey said. “I don’t think there’s any other way to put it. He has the opportunity to win a lot of games this year.”

Pregame decision, sloppy defense cost Gabe Kapler, Giants in 7-6 loss

Pregame decision, sloppy defense cost Gabe Kapler, Giants in 7-6 loss

It almost seemed like a mistake when the Giants' lineup card was posted.

Steven Duggar, the best defensive outfielder on the roster, was listed in left field. Alex Dickerson was the right fielder for just the second time in his big league career. 

It seemed like a mixup, but Gabe Kapler explained before Monday's game why it made sense. Left field at Coors Field has significantly more real estate than right, and the gap is much harder to play on that side of the field. Kapler said the staff had gone over the spray charts for Rockies hitters and decided it made more sense to put Duggar, who had two previous professional innings in left, there Monday. 

"It's a little bit unpredictable," Kapler said in the afternoon. "Sometimes you get that right and sometimes you don't."

A few hours later, it felt like the decision ended up being costly. Dickerson, who previously had only played right when Brandon Belt was the left fielder, had two misplays in the five-run sixth inning of a 7-6 loss to the Rockies. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

With the Giants up by a run, Ryan McMahon hit a one-out shot to right that Dickerson got a glove on as his feet hit the warning track. But he bobbled the ball and dropped it as McMahon raced into third. The Rockies took the lead later in the inning on a single to right that turned into a two-run play when Dickerson's throw back to the infield overshot the cutoff man. Pitcher Wandy Peralta and catcher Chadwick Tromp ended up converging on the ball near the dugout as the trail runner easily took a vacated plate. 

Kapler said a night like that does lead to second-guessing, but he added that "sometimes you set them up and you set them up the right way and it doesn't work out."

"In hindsight, you question was that the right call. Honestly I bet Dick makes that (catch) 19 out of 20 times," Kapler said. "The throw, I bet he makes almost every time. There's no question."

The Giants were confident in their process, but at this point it might be hard to be too confident in how those decisions will play out on the field. The defense has been a mess through 11 games, a bit of a surprise given the intensity of both camps. They lead the NL with 13 errors. Evan Longoria booted a grounder in the first inning that led to the first run off Johnny Cueto, who was later charged with two more on a Nolan Arenado homer. 

That blast, Arenado's first of the year, started the five-run outburst. The Rockies kept tacking on thanks to the defensive mistakes, and perhaps the pre-game decision. 

[RELATED: How Giants are developing players at alternate site]

Dickerson said the switch might have factored in "a little bit" on the angles he took and said something caught his eye on the throw, perhaps because he was in an unfamiliar spot. But Dickerson said there were no excuses, and those were plays that should have been made regardless of his lack of experience in right. 

"At the end of the day you're still an athlete," he said. "You've got to be able to go catch a ball like that. I just kind of had one of those innings where there were two big flukes that really cost us."

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 loss to Rockies

Giants takeaways: What you might have missed in 7-6 loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

Through their good times and bad early on this season, there's been one consistent theme for the Giants. They've been sloppy defensively, and on Monday that was a killer.

The Rockies scored five runs in the sixth, pushed along by a couple of defensive misplays from right fielder Alex Dickerson, and held on for a 7-6 victory. The Giants fell back a game under .500.

Here are three things you have to know from the first night of a 10-game road trip:

Step in the Right Direction

Johnny Cueto entered with a 5-2 record and 3.26 ERA in eight career starts at Coors Field, which is rare, obviously. He had his longest start of the young season, going five innings for the first time and allowing three runs, two of which were earned.

Cueto was cruising along until Nolan Arenado did what he has always done, crushing an elevated fastball into the empty seats for a two-run homer. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Same Old Nolan

Arenado entered the game with a .226 average and no homers, but he took Cueto halfway up the bleachers in left in the sixth inning. That was the last batter Cueto faced. 

The homer was the 228th of Arenado's career, which moved him past Carlos Gonzalez and into fourth place on the franchise list. He has hit 227 of those against the Giants.

[RELATED: Nine observations from GIants' homestand]

Still Powerful

The Giants hit some long homers on the 3-3 homestand and kept crushing on their first night in the best hitter's park around.

Chadwick Tromp homered for the second straight day and red-hot Mike Yastrzemski hit his third in 11 games. The most impressive shot came from Dickerson, who one-handed a low slider over the right field wall. It was his second career homer off a lefty. Coors!