Cain makes case for Giants' rotation spot in final Cactus League start

Cain makes case for Giants' rotation spot in final Cactus League start

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants still have not publicly disclosed their full rotation, but Matt Cain sure sounded Tuesday like a guy who plans to start against the San Diego Padres on April 7.

“I’ll be ready for the fifth day,” Cain said. “I’ll be ready until they’ve told me otherwise.”

Tuesday’s outing seemed to indicate that if Cain hasn’t been told he’s the fifth starter, it will happen soon. He threw 99 pitches against the Cubs, which is not exactly the workload of a man preparing to be a long reliever or take on some other role. 

Cain’s day was blurred by an ugly finish, but for five innings, he was having by far his best outing of the spring. Cain recorded five strikeouts and got four popups through four. The balls were hit further in the fifth, but three flyouts got him through five on 84 pitches. Jason Heyward greeted Cain in the sixth with a double. After Gorkys Hernandez chased down a deep liner by Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez ended Cain's day with a single up the middle. 

The lineup Cain faced was a proper test given the stakes. The Cubs started Ben Zobrist, Heyward, Rizzo, Baez and Miguel Montero, and Cain handled them well until the sixth-inning rally. His lone blemish early on was a pitch that Chesny Young blasted for a two-run homer. 

“Today was an improvement,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He did a good job out there and went through a tough lineup. He used his changeup very well today.”

Cain finished his spring with a 7.82 ERA, and in recent days, team officials have been less hesitant to plug Cain into that No. 5 spot. Ty Blach made his case by allowing two runs over six innings in his last start, but Blach also would be an easier fit in the bullpen, which will be without Will Smith for the entire season. Josh Osich’s struggles in relief of Cain on Tuesday could intensify the need for left-handed relief help. 

Bochy said last week that the Giants could use their fifth starter in a different way early on. They have a day off Monday, and Cain said he could be available out of the bullpen during the season’s first series if needed. No matter what the numbers say, Cain feels like he’s in a good place.

“I know I’m ready to throw the ball the way I need to,” he said. “I feel good and my mechanics feel good. I’m ready to go.”

Bochy expects to announce a decision on Thursday. If the staff was still waffling, Cain left the right final impression. 

“We’ll get together to discuss what to do here with the whole staff,” Bchy said. “But it’s good to see Matt get better as the spring went on.”


Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

Bruce Bochy explains how Giants will utilize new catcher Erik Kratz

SAN FRANCISCO -- This is the second time Erik Kratz has been traded to a new organization in the week before the opener. He once got traded, got to the ballpark at six, and entered the game for a new team two hours later. 

So no, he is not sweating the fact that he has to learn a new pitching staff in time to potentially start a game for the Giants later this week. 

Kratz, acquired Sunday morning from the Brewers, will be the backup catcher, manager Bruce Bochy said. That means Kratz likely will start a game this weekend, as the Giants are hoping to ease Buster Posey into the regular season and they have four games in San Diego, followed by three in Los Angeles. 

"What are you going to do? It's part of the gig," Kratz said of the cram course. "It's not my first time."

The 38-year-old is happy for the opportunity regardless of the timing, because at the beginning of camp the Brewers told him he would not break with them. He spent six weeks auditioning for other teams, and he woke up Saturday thinking he was flying back home to Virginia to wait out the waiver process. Instead, he boarded a Sunday morning flight to the Bay Area, getting to the Coliseum in time to warm up two new teammates in the bullpen in the late innings. 

Kratz's arrival was not a surprise, really, given how many moves Farhan Zaidi has made this week. But it did certainly shake things up.

Bochy said the Giants are considering going with three catchers to start the year, allowing them to rest Posey more often and have Aramis Garcia's thump on the bench. 

"It's a pretty big bat," Bochy said of Garcia, "And he does a nice job wherever we put him (catcher or first base)."

That might be a luxury the Giants can't afford, though. They are leaning towards keeping 13 pitchers, which would mean just four bench spots. Kratz has one and Yangervis Solarte has one. Keeping Garcia would leave just one spot for Alen Hanson, Pablo Sandoval and the candidates vying for the fourth outfield job. 

[RELATED: Erik Kratz leaves his mark everywhere he goes]

"There are a lot of variables involved with this decision," Bochy said. 

More will be known Monday, when Bochy expects to announce his rotation (even though it seems set already). Perhaps the Giants will make yet another move, but for now, this much is certain: The Giants have their backup catcher, and a few days to figure out the rest. 

New Giants catcher Erik Kratz leaves a presence everywhere he goes


New Giants catcher Erik Kratz leaves a presence everywhere he goes

Death, taxes, and Giants transactions.

That appears to be the theme of the week.

A few transactions were made on Saturday, and on Sunday morning, the Giants acquired veteran Erik Kratz in a trade for minor league infielder, C.J. Hinojosa.

But this isn't an article about moves being made, or trades being implemented. This is about the 38-year-old catcher who leaves a presence behind with anyone he meets -- and he's met a lot of people.

Kratz coming to the Giants means this will be the eighth big-league team he will roster for and, in total, 11 organizations -- er, 12 now. 

Last season, during his time with the Brewers, he became the oldest position player to make his first postseason start since Lave Cross did in 1905.  

And how did he do during that debut? Well:

During Game 2 of the National League Division Series, he hit a two-run, eighth-inning single that gave the Brewers a 2-0 advantage in the eventual 4-0 win over the Rockies. And he was beyond thankful for the opportunity as he told's Adam McCalvy last year.

"If you told me 16 years ago that I'd be here today I wouldn't have changed the path that I took," Kratz said. "I never gave up. I've been blessed every day to be in this situation."

His friends had surprised him during the postseason -- and each one of them sported one of his jerseys from each of the teams he played on. And when he was asked about what they would think about seeing him on the big stage, they would probably ask about his "nasty facial hair" and say he "looks fat on TV."

I spoke to Robert Murray who is the Brewers' beat writer for The Athletic. Through the phone, you could hear his excitement at the opportunity to talk all things Kratz.

"This is right up my alley," Murray told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I love Kratz."

Then Murray told me a story about him. One that made Murray a little sad Kratz would no longer sport a Milwaukee uniform.

"I had asked Josh Fields if he knew anyone in the Brewers' clubhouse besides Yasmani Grandal when I heard Kratz say in the background, 'Robert, that's a stupid question." After the interview, I asked him what made the question stupid when he replied, 'You should know by now that basically everybody in baseball has played baseball with Erik Kratz." Even in the toughest of situations, knowing on Feb. 1, that he wouldn't make the Brewers, he was a true professional and kept a strong sense of humor."

Murray said that is what he will remember about Kratz.

Don't worry, I didn't rub it in his face too much the Giants had gained a great human, but I will say it got me excited to see what he can add to that team, to that clubhouse, to that organization.

For those of you who say, "I don't care, give me his stats." This isn't one of those articles.

You know where to find his numbers.