Cain shows progress; Casilla makes debut

Giants remain hopeful starter can begin season on time

Cain shows progress; Casilla makes debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Though conventional wisdom would indicate that Matt Cain lacks enough time to build enough arm strength to enable him to join the Giants' season-opening rotation, all parties concerned remain willing to evaluate and re-evaluate the right-hander's progress daily. Thus, Cain and the Giants continue to hope he'll be ready to occupy the fourth or fifth starter's spot without delay.

Cain, recovering from removal of a cyst on his throwing arm, tossed 35 pitches off a bullpen mound Saturday. Facing live hitters in batting practice is likely his next step, though he remained cautious by saying, "We'll see how this thing bounces back tomorrow and go from there."

Cain said he's feeling no discomfort. That, along with the encouraging condition of his arm before the cyst problem arose, prompts the optimism he and the Giants share. He said that based on conversations with manager Bruce Bochy, pitching coach Dave Righetti and head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, he might be able to increase his pitch limit at an accelerated rate that would allow him to open the season on time.

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On the other hand, Bochy said, "We don't want to get in a rush mode with him." If starting the season with Cain on the disabled list and Chris Heston in the rotation makes the most sense for the Giants, that's the course of action they'll follow.

Right-hander Sergio Romo, who has weathered arm-strength issues since the beginning of Spring Training, also threw in the bullpen and is ready to face live hitters.

Casilla makes debut

Giants closer Santiago Casilla thrived in his first Cactus League appearance, striking out two batters in a scoreless fourth inning in Saturday's 9-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Casilla remained mystified by the flu that kept him inactive. He said the illness strikes him every spring.

"I don't know why," he said. "It's weird."

Casilla not only threw all of his pitches, but he also surprised observers by throwing a curveball on his first pitch, instead of the hard stuff he favors. He returned to the curve to strike out Chris Owings on a 3-2 pitch, ending the inning.

"It's good to get him out there," Bochy said of Casilla, who saved 38 games in 44 opportunities last year. "He's ready."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.