Mays' mentoring 'dream come true' for Pagan

Giants center fielder gets fielding tips from Hall of Famer

Mays' mentoring 'dream come true' for Pagan

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants center fielder Angel Pagan's competitive fire is fueled at least partly by an inexhaustible source: Willie Mays.

Longtime Giants fans may have been reminded of Mays when Pagan dashed into left-center field during Monday night's third inning to rob Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen of an extra-base hit with the bases loaded. In fact, Pagan said he speaks to Mays as often as possible when the legend, who remains a special assistant with the Giants, visits the clubhouse.

"Every time I talk to him, he encourages me to play hard," Pagan said Tuesday. "Since day one, he has always taken care of me. Who better? He's a dream come true for a player to talk to."

As an example, Pagan cited an afternoon during Spring Training of 2012, his first year with the Giants. Pagan raced after a fly ball and dropped it while making an over-the-shoulder attempt to grab it. As Pagan related, Mays noticed this and advised him to temper his approach by slowing down once he gets near the ball. Otherwise, he won't be able to follow it. Sure enough, Pagan recalled, another ball was hit over his head a day or two later. Heeding Mays' advice, he caught it.

Pagan's well aware of the impact he can make with his glove.

"You have two parts of the game, offense and defense," he said. "Sometimes both are going to be good. Sometimes your offense isn't going to be good. But you still have another job to do. You can win a game with your glove."

• Right-hander Matt Cain was expected to accelerate his recovery from his forearm injury by throwing 45 pitches in an extended spring camp outing Wednesday at the Giants' Scottsdale training facility. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was hopeful of a strong performance from the former anchor of the starting rotation.

"He has put in a lot of time to get to this point," Bochy said.

Rather than establish a target date for Cain's return to the Giants' staff, Bochy said only that the 30-year-old's physical condition will be evaluated with each outing.

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