Programming note: Giants Insider Andrew Baggarly is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Just one year after Matt Cain took the opening-day torch from Tim Lincecum, the Giants will send another starter to the mound in the March 31 lid lifter.
It’s Madison Bumgarner’s time.
By the length and breadth of a horse barn, Bumgarner was the Giants’ best starting pitcher last season. And although Cain bounced back in the second half, Giants manager Bruce Bochy felt it was appropriate to reward his 24-year-old left-hander with the March 31 assignment at Arizona – as well as what amounts to a rotation captaincy.
“I talked to both of them. I’m comfortable with either of them in the first game,” Bochy said. “This is more a reward for Madison. He had a really nice year and he hasn’t done it before. I want him to check off this box.”
Cain will open as the No.2 starter, as he did for many years behind Tim Lincecum.
Although the rest of the rotation order could be tweaked, Bochy is penciling in Tim Hudson as the No.3 starter, followed by Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. If the rotation stays in that order, Hudson would be lined up to start the home opener April 8.
Cain savored Bumgarner’s reaction when Bochy gave them the official word on Tuesday.
“I think he was in shock and a little bit in awe,” said Cain, smiling. “He’ll enjoy it, I think. He’ll be a good guy to lead the rotation.”
Said Bochy: “Matt, he’s great with it. And you know we’ve had a lot of success with Matt being the No.2 guy.”
The Giants will have their third different opening-day starter in three seasons. Cain didn’t lament losing the honor just a year after making his first opening-day assignment. He and Bumgarner are close friends, and he was happy for him.
“I’m pumped for him,” Cain said. “I’m excited to watch him opening day and get the season started off right for us. It’s an honor to pitch the first game and he’s more than deserving.”
Bumgarner, who was a first-time All-Star last year, ranked fifth in the NL with a 2.77 ERA and finished one strikeout away from 200. Among NL pitchers, only Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez held batters to a lower average (.203).
Bumgarner is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Friday, with Cain pitching Saturday. Hudson would debut on Sunday and Lincecum on Monday. The Giants would bring back Bumgarner to start on Tuesday, with Vogelsong to follow.
The rotation order is only significant in the first turn of the season, really. After that, it’s a jumble. However Bochy lined them up, the Giants need a vastly improved starting five if they hope to get on the right side of .500 and contend in the NL West again.
Cain will be a big part of that.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I pitched last year,” said Cain, who had a 5.06 ERA at the All-Star break. “It’s something, (as) I’ll go about this year, I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”