SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Cain turned 30 last October, but his surgically-repaired right elbow is telling him a different number.
“I have the same range of motion as I did when I signed when I was 17, which is good,” Cain said Friday. “That’s exactly what I was going for.”
Cain was a teenager the last time he felt he had full range of motion in his pitching arm, and while last August’s procedure to remove bone chips won’t have him fully extending his arm again, he feels far better than he did a year ago. After talking to the media Friday, Cain went downstairs to throw 30 pitches off a mound. He threw 25 pitches on Tuesday at 60-70 percent effort and said he is doing some form of throwing five days a week. For now, Cain isn’t pulling out a radar gun; he’s focused on repeating a delivery that failed him occasionally the past two seasons.
“I wasn’t able to consistently repeat the same delivery that I wanted to over and over again, and that was getting frustrating,” he said. “I almost see it as a new beginning. I feel really good right now. I feel as good as I did when I almost first signed with these guys.”
The guys who have watched Cain blossom are counting on him to help the Giants avoid the odd-year blues. Bochy said he’ll keep a watchful eye on Cain this spring, but he doesn’t expect any setbacks. The Giants are hopeful Cain can return to the form that made him a three-time All-Star and perennial Cy Young candidate, giving them a right-handed ace to match up with left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
“He’s on schedule to go once the season starts,” Bochy said of Cain. “I’ve been getting nothing but good news about Matt from (head trainer) Dave Groeschner.”
Cain felt so strong in early throwing sessions that Groeschner and the staff had to remind him to stay under control. The goal is for Cain to be ready in April, not the first week of spring training, and he likely will be a step or two behind the other starters (aside from Tim Hudson, who is also coming off surgery) when camp starts.
Cain is one of several veterans who is on the “watch” list when pitchers and catchers report Feb. 18. Hudson is a few weeks behind after having bone chips removed from his right ankle in early January, and Angel Pagan is coming off back surgery. While Hudson was just a few AT&T Park suites down from Cain at a media event Friday, Pagan did not make the trip. That hasn’t kept Cain from exchanging texts with the center fielder, and they’ve got a message for fans who believe the Giants have had a quiet offseason.
The two have texted about the fact that they’re “almost two pickups” for a team that won a World Series without either player. Cain made just 15 starts a year ago, going 2-7 with a 4.18 ERA. He had a career-low strikeout rate (7.0 per nine innings) and career-high home run rate (1.3).
“I’ve underperformed the last year and a half, and that’s something I don’t want to do again,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of doing.”
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