The first batter Matt Cain faced Monday evening at Raley Field lined his second pitch for a single to right field. The next three struck out swinging, each waving at a 91 mile per hour fastball for strike three.
Cain, the San Francisco Giants’ right-hander, looked sharp at the outset before laboring a little toward the end of his first rehab start with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Cain threw 3 1/3 innings against the Fresno Grizzlies, allowing six hits, four runs (three earned) and two walks while striking out seven. He threw 75 pitches, 47 of them strikes.
"Everything was pretty good," Cain said. "I was maybe a little off with fastball command at some times, but it wasn’t terrible. It feels like it’s pretty close to being right."
Cain’s fastball hovered at 89-92 miles per hour, and he mixed in changeups and breaking balls. Cain recorded his first six outs all via swinging strikeout, four on 91 mph fastballs and two on 77 mph breaking balls, and said his off-speed pitches were better than in his last outing at Double-A Richmond -- his first rehab outing while recovering from a flexor-tendon strain near his right elbow.
Cain allowed an unearned run in the second inning Monday and got into trouble with two outs in the third. Fresno’s Matt Duffy hit a first-pitch fastball for a solo homer. Cain then allowed three consecutive singles, including a two-strike RBI single by Alex Presley, and walked Robbie Grossman after getting ahead in the count, 0-2.
"I just got in some trouble there, made some OK pitches and those guys put some good swings on it," Cain said. "Maybe make a little better adjustments, or get the ball down a little more on the breaking stuff, and maybe those little line drives over the infield will be ground balls to guys."
Still, Cain was not entirely unsatisfied with the 27-pitch inning, which forced him to make pitches to get himself out of a jam. Cain left the bases loaded by getting Fresno’s Max Stassi to fly out to the warning track in left field.
"Those are always good things, because that’s what’s going to happen," he said. "You’re going to have to find ways to get out of those situations during the season."
Cain came out for the fourth inning at 67 pitches and notched his seventh strikeout before exiting immediately after his 75th pitch, in a 2-0 count to Tony Kemp. Kemp later walked and scored a run, both of which were charged to Cain.
Afterward, Cain said he "didn’t really feel tired" in his later innings. "I might’ve gotten a little out of my mechanics," he said. "But physically, no, I felt pretty good."
It has been nearly a year since Cain last pitched in the majors last July 9. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said a few days ago that, if forced to guess, he thought Cain might be ready to rejoin the Giants after three or four more rehab starts. Asked if that is a realistic timetable, Cain said Monday: "Couldn’t tell you really.”
"We’ll see how tomorrow (feels),” Cain said. “I know today felt pretty good. I would have liked to go more innings but I got my pitch count pretty high in the third. I’d like to get a little deeper into games, for sure."