Matt Cain made at least 30 starts every season from 2006 to 2013.
Things changed in 2014, when Cain went 2-7 with a 4.18 ERA and made his last appearance on July 9.
He underwent surgery on Aug. 11, 2014 to remove bone chips and spurs from his right elbow.
"Some of the growing pains of going through surgery the last year, I feel like they're pushed behind me," Cain said Thursday night on KNBR 680-AM. "I feel like I'm able to do everything and not have to worry about any of that now, so that's really nice not to have to sit there and wonder if I do different things is it going to hurt or is it going to ache. That's a nice thing to have."
Cain rehabbed all winter, and was slated to start the third game of the 2015 season. But a flexor tendon strain put him on the DL, and although he was hoping to only miss a couple of weeks, didn't make his first start of the year until July 2.
Although he had a few terrific outings -- July 7 against the Mets, July 22 at San Diego and Aug. 19 at St. Louis -- Cain went 2-4 with a 6.15 ERA over his first 10 starts.
He was placed on the disabled list in late August with elbow nerve irritation.
"That was the first ordeal that I've had to go through with baseball, or big injury really," Cain said. "I had been lucky enough to really not have any problems coming through high school, or even younger. Everybody knows that sooner or later something could happen down the road, and you start to learn your body a ton when you're playing. It was something that we hoped never happen, but the anatomy in my able just kind of showed that at some point there might be a chance that I have to do a clean-out, and that's what ended up happening.
"And it changed the structure of my elbow a pretty good bit, so my whole body, just having to learn it again. It took some time. Hopefully we're past that and now I don't have to worry about it anymore."
Was it harder to overcome the physical challenges of returning to the mound, or was the mental aspect the most difficult?
"I think it was a little bit of both," Cain explained. "I definitely know there were times when I was out there and I'd get in my own way mentally. That's frustrating, because for so long I was able to keep my mental game so sharp and being able to push through a lot of things.
"I feel like I had that really good edge. That kind of got taken away from me when I didn't trust that my body was gonna be there to pick me up. When those two things start fighting each other it can be very difficult."
Cain made two relief appearances in September and started Game 162.
He tossed five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and one walk.
"It was nice to be able to finish it off and get that last start in under my belt, and try to carry that into this offseason and into the spring," Cain said.
The Giants are reportedly trying to sign Zack Greinke. If they miss out on the Cy Young runner-up, they will reportedly try to sign both Jeff Samardzija and Mike Leake.
With Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Chris Heston in the mix, it's unclear where Cain will open the 2016 campaign in the pecking order.
That doesn't concern him right now. He's just hoping to build off what he accomplished on Oct. 4, when he felt like the "Matt Cain of old."
"I felt like I was effortless, doing some things that I had always done," Cain said. "... That's what we've done for so long, that was something that's built in to me. I'm able to go out there and pitch in a way and not think about 'Where's my arm? Where's my leg? Where's everything?' Go out there and let's just attack the hitter and make pitches and go about doing our business, and doing our job.
"I felt like I was able to do that in that last start."