ATLANTA -- For now, Albert Suarez remains a spot-starter. For the long term, he performed Wednesday night as if he eventually could occupy a key role on the Giants' pitching staff, either on the lower rungs of the starting rotation or as a long reliever.
Suarez encouraged the Giants in their 5-4, 11-inning loss Wednesday night to the Atlanta Braves. Making his first Major League start, he retired the first nine batters he faced, displayed a fastball that registered as high as 96 mph and proved that he could pitch to contact by coaxing a double-play grounder to end the fourth inning.
A non-roster invitee to Spring Training who was signed during the offseason as a Minor League free agent, Suarez, 26, replaced the injured Matt Cain and limited the Braves to three runs and three hits in five-plus innings. He walked two and struck out four.
"He threw really well," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "The kid did a great job."
For good measure, Suarez singled home a sixth-inning run -- impressive, considering he rarely handled a bat while playing for American League organizations in the Minors until this year.
Suarez, who had made five relief appearances for the Giants before receiving this chance, wasn't overly nervous.
"That [starting] is what I've been doing my whole career in the Minor Leagues," he said. "I was excited to get up here to do what I need to do."
Sounding at once like a veteran and a rookie, Suarez identified what troubled him in the sixth inning, when he allowed a double and a triple and walked a batter, prompting his removal.
"I think I was trying to do too much, instead of trying to keep it simple, like I was doing earlier in the game," he said.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. 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.