Cain still working to shake off rust from layoff

Giants starter has second rough start out of three since return from injury

Cain still working to shake off rust from layoff

PHOENIX -- Lost in all the commotion of Friday night's 6-5 San Francisco come-from-behind victory in 12 innings over the D-backs at Chase Field was the performance of Giants right-hander Matt Cain, making only his third start since coming off the disabled list July 2.

Cain missed about a year because of surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow and an ensuing flexor strain in his right forearm and looked every bit the worse for it.

For Cain, this is really his Spring Training and he was pelted for five extra-base hits and a homer -- from light hitting D-backs second baseman Chris Owings -- before recording the first out of the fourth inning.

"It was a little hit and miss," Cain said. "I made some really good pitches early, but I made some bad mistakes. It seems like they hit the mistakes really well. When you get in that little bit of trouble, it's tough."

After allowing four runs on eight hits, Cain retired the side in order in the fifth, ending by punching out Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb swinging.

"I think early in the game he just made a few mistakes there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "The last inning was his best. That was the Matt Cain we know, hitting the spots. But in the early go there, he left some pitches up. With that said, he battled in this ballpark to keep us in the game."

It's a step forward and two steps back at this point. Cain is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA. In his first start at Miami on July 2, the Marlins struck him for five runs and seven hits in the loss. He couldn't find his spots that night, either, walking four and striking out two.

But on July 7 against the Mets in San Francisco, it was the real Matt Cain, who pitched six innings of scoreless, two-hit ball, walking two and whiffing seven in the win.

On Friday night, Bochy lifted Cain after five innings and 83 pitches. Nine Giants relievers picked him up by allowing one run in the final seven innings and none in the last six. The Giants also wiped out a 5-2 deficit, tying the score in the seventh on a Hunter Pence two-run homer.

By the time Ryan Vogelsong came in to toss the final two innings and record a win for the first time in relief since 2005, Cain had ceased to be the story. But looking ahead to his next outing, the Giants certainly need him to return to consistent form. But if it feels like he's just starting the season, he is.

"I don't know exactly where I am right now," Cain said. "I've been around, but I've never missed the first half of the season. I don't want to give myself that leeway, but it kind of is the first month for me. I can't think about it that way. I've got to worry about pitching and getting guys out, making really good pitches and limiting the big mistakes, go about it that way."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.