Giants like what they see in Cain's debut

Right-hander uses breaking balls effectively in first spring start

Giants like what they see in Cain's debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For Giants starter Matt Cain, his long-awaited spring debut included pregame jitters, a couple of hits at the plate and most important of all, a lot of quality pitches.

Cain actually stretched his pitch count a bit higher than anticipated and used his breaking ball effectively in an outing of 2 2/3 innings Friday night, giving the Giants reason to feel good about his progress on a night when their offense broke out for a 15-6 win over the Padres.

It was Cain's first appearance since his spring was interrupted by the removal of a cyst from his pitching arm, and catcher Buster Posey was duly impressed.

"I don't say it lightly," Posey said. "I really thought his stuff was really good."

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Said manager Bruce Bochy: "I liked where he was with his delivery, and he threw some good breaking balls. It'd been awhile since he'd been out there, so we got some good work out of him."

And that's obviously good news for the Giants. Cain still has plenty of work to do and can't afford any setbacks at this point, but he's feeling good about his chances to get ready for his first regular-season start, slated for April 8, after Friday's outing.

"We got in every situation you can have, right off the get-go," Cain said. "I think it's definitely something to build off of, and I feel like I made a lot of good pitches."

Cain wound up allowing three earned runs on seven hits, including a homer to Matt Kemp, while dialing his pitch count up to 52, slightly ahead of the 45 or so the Giants expected for him. Bochy said he'd like to get Cain up to about 80 by the time camp ends.

Posey said Cain was especially strong with his breaking pitches, a good indication of how far along he is toward being ready. While Cain wants to find more command of his fastball, the breaking stuff has been a focus of his work this spring with pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner.

"We've definitely been conscious of it, working with Gardy and Rags on that, trying to use that as an asset," Cain said. "I know it's always been in there. We're trying to get that good pitch going and being able to use it."

All things considered, it was a good first step for Cain toward putting two frustrating seasons behind him. If he can get back on his normal career track of excellence, that could be a huge boon for the Giants.

"I think we're counting on him, big time," Posey said. "I don't think there's any other way to put it. I think he really has an opportunity to win a lot of games this year."

Cain said he always expects big things out of himself, and he's eager to get back in position to do them. With the clock ticking toward Opening Day, he also knows there's a process he has to go through to get there with three more starts slated before the bell rings.

"We've got to play it out as well and do the right thing," Cain said.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow hium on Twitter @JohnSchlegelMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.