SCOTTSDALE — Late in a 35-pitch bullpen session on Saturday morning, Matt Cain yelled for bullpen coach Mark Gardner to step into the box and look like a hitter as Cain ramped up the velocity on his pitches.
Cain really started to let it rip for a few minutes, but he’ll have to turn it up even more if he wants to make his first scheduled start of the regular season. The Giants are running out of time to get Cain ready for April 8, but he’s not ruling it out yet.
“I think we’ll cross that road when it gets down to it,” he said. “If everything is good with the schedule and I get my pitch count up, I think I can be fine for that fifth spot, but I don’t think we can say that (for sure) right now. If we miss one start to be able to go the rest of the season, that’s what we have to do.”
Cain was shut down early in camp after a cyst was removed just above his pitching elbow, and he’s now far behind the other starters. As the rotation goes through a third turn, Cain still has not faced hitters. He said he felt good after Saturday’s bullpen session — his second since the procedure — but he’s not sure when he’ll pitch a live BP session.
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“I need to see how this thing bounces back tomorrow and we’ll go from there,” Cain said. “We’re pushing it the way we need to to be ready for the season, but we’re seeing how it reacts every day.”
Cain wasn't slowed at all while throwing on Saturday and he hasn’t had any setbacks during the recovery process. Still, the calendar leaves him with just 26 days before the fifth spot in the rotation comes up for the first time. That’s not a lot of time for a pitcher who is coming off two injury-marred seasons to get his count high enough.
Cain was honest Saturday, saying he just doesn’t know how this will play out. He might be ready April 8, he might not. If Cain needs five additional days, the Giants can slide Chris Heston into the rotation for one turn and possibly sneak another player — like Cory Gearrin, who is out of options — onto their roster.
They’ll worry about that math later in March. For now, Cain is just pleased that he’s back on a mound.
“I’m not feeling any restrictions,” he said. “That’s a great thing. That’s why we’re able to keep moving along.”