Matt Cain has turned in a pair of outings over the last week and a half that have me thinking that this kid is ready to break out this season. Cain has been a much better pitcher than his record shows over the last 2 seasons, but he's still had some control issues to bout with. However, after his first 2 outings of the spring, it looks like Matty has adjusted something as he has looked like Tim Lincecum on the hill throughout his last 2 starts.

Cain's most recent outing was Saturday vs. the Padres in a split squad match-up. In that outing, Cain went 3 innings, allowing a walk and a hit along with 5 punch-outs on 40 pitches. He did hit a rought patch in the fifth inning though and gave up some runs, but he had to feel good with the way he threw the ball. The pitch count will be a big key to success this year for the 24 year-old. If he can limit his innings to an
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average of 15 pitches or less, he's going to be a lot more effective and be able to get into the 8th and 9th innings more often. He's a horse already, and is used to throwing 100+ pitches a start, but he has to start using those pitches more economically if he's going to shake the "above average" sticker and start becoming a really good starting pitcher like he's capable of. I've mentioned in previous posts over the winter that I think a lot of the pressure is off of Matt Cain now and I think he's ready to thrive. Tim Lincecum is the ace and won the Cy Young award so obviously and rightly so, all eyes are going to be on him. But then there's also Randy Johnson, who is hunting for his 300th victory and is a baseball icon. So this season, in my opinion, Cain is kind of playing third fiddle, so to say. And again, I just think this will alleviate any extra pressure or expectations on Matt Cain and he'll ultimately be a better pitcher for it. The only thing that Cain can hope for is a better defense surrounding him. I haven't seen any pitcher suffer as bad of luck as Cain has over the past few seasons as I can think of a handful of games of the top of my head (the Todd Linden mis-play in left at Coors in '07 comes right to mind) where the defense and/or bullpen absolutely screwed Cainer. Outside of Cain, there have been a lot of Giants this spring who have been playing well and looking ready to start the season. Pablo Sandoval is hitting over .400, Travis Ishikawa has hit for power and is hitting over .300 and Emmanuel Burriss is really starting to take the bull by the
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horns in this battle for second base as he's hitting .364 while scoring runs and wrecking havoc on the base-paths. They have also found a nice little batch of young, big-league ready position players in Jesus Guzman and Matt Downs who could be amongst the fist call-ups of the 2009 season. Guzman has been mentioned here about as much as Tim Linceum this spring and I'm sure Giants fans are starting to familiarize themselves with this kid. He's been the top offensive player this spring for the Giants as he has 6 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs while carrying a .435 average through 23 spring at-bats. I was expecting a nice spring from Guzman, but he's been scary good this spring and I don't think anyone has expected that. And yes, I do know it's only spring training, but I don't think Guzman has ever gotten this much action in a spring season, so all of this is new to him and he's taking it with ease. Again, the only issue with Guzman will be finding him a position. He's looked both good and bad at times at third base this spring, but has played exceptionally well at first and in the outfield, so it should be interesting to see where he starts out in Fresno. Downs also has the ability to play multiple positions as he's experienced at 2nd and 3rd base as well as right field, where he should open the season at for Fresno.

Trevor Cole The San Francisco Giants Blog

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