Cain elated after flawless return to mound

Cain elated after flawless return to mound

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Matt Cain felt pained enough by pitching last year that catcher Buster Posey recalled seeing his batterymate grimace on the mound from time to time. That grimace turned into a smile on Monday afternoon.

Cain's first game since season-ending surgery on his right elbow in August was an unqualified success. The right-hander started and worked two perfect innings as the Giants tied the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-5, in a Cactus League matchup at Scottsdale Stadium.

"That went really [well]," Cain said. "I've been trying to think a lot lately about trying to get in the right rhythm, trying to get everything in the same groove, and then it all kind of worked out."

By unofficial count, Cain threw 20 pitches -- 10 fewer than the Giants prescribed for him, which reflected his command.

"That was enough, with the intensity of going out there, throwing in the bullpen, having to get up, down, up and down," he said.

Cain used his entire repertoire of deliveries -- fastballs, curveballs, changeups and sliders -- while tapping the "extra competitive adrenaline" he derived from opposing the Giants' longtime rivals. He welcomed confronting a Dodgers lineup filled with projected regulars.

"I want to go out there and compete and throw against those guys," he said. "We're going to see them a ton, obviously."

Cain's velocity topped out at 92 mph, a slight decrease from his peak level. But regaining form is what the rest of Spring Training is about.

Posey was encouraged by what he saw from Cain.

"I thought he looked great," Posey said. "... Everything seemed very smooth and rhythmic and effortless."

Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who flied out to center field to open the game, was suitably impressed by Cain. 

"He looked pretty good. He had depth on the changeup, which he has when he's going good. I got a 1-1 changeup, it was pretty good. The ball is coming out easily. Doesn't seem like he's struggling to get it up there. I'm sure they're happy about that."

Cain's true challenge will unfold during the regular season, as he strives to meet the standard he set for himself as a three-time All-Star and erstwhile staff ace. As usual, he hopes to be effective and durable enough to record at least 200 innings, which always has been a personal benchmark.

"I feel like I've underperformed the past couple of years," Cain said, repeating a comment he issued last month at FanFest.

Cain felt no discomfort in his right ankle, which also required surgery in September. As for his elbow, he indicated that he might temper the intensity of his throws when he plays catch between outings.

"I don't want to waste them," he said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.