SCOTTSDALE The starting rotation was by no means the lone culprit for the Giants’ sub-.500 record in 2013, but with the possible exception of Madison Bumgarner, each starter had his struggles. That included workhorse Matt Cain, who recorded a 5.06 ERA in 19 first-half starts before posting a 2.36 mark in 11 games following the All-Star break.
Cain was the last of the Giants’ starters to make his 2014 Cactus League debut Wednesday, allowing one hit and striking out two in three shutout innings in the Giants’ 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. In doing so, Cain continued a string of strong outings by the starters.
Combined, Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain have thrown 17 innings and given up one run on nine hits. They’ve walked one batter.
“We haven’t said anything to each other,” Cain said. “I think we all just kind of know that’s what we need to do.
“I know I’ve said it to you guys and those (other starting pitchers) have probably said the same thing – we didn’t carry the load that we needed to last year. And we know that if we get out to a good start, that’s going to help.”
Personally, Cain did anything but last season, going 5-6 in the first half while failing to make it out of the third inning in his last two starts before the break. He held opposing hitters to a lower batting average (.226) in the first half than the second (.232), but he also gave up 16 home runs in 112 innings.
Cain’s second-half numbers lowered his season ERA to 4.00. Wednesday, he said he felt closer to that late-season form in his first spring outing (not counting two simulated innings against minor leaguers after his first scheduled outing was rained out last week).
“I felt like I was throwing good pitches and just trying to get ahead of guys,” Cain said. “It’s obviously early – it’s the first one, but just the competitive edge and all that stuff, that felt good.”
Et cetera – Minor-league reliever Jose De Paula threw two scoreless innings, giving the left-hander two strong outings in which he’s allowed one hit in three innings. Manager Bruce Bochy said De Paula has “been the talk around camp right now with his early success.”
Bochy admitted he didn’t know much about De Paula before camp. The Giants claimed De Paula, who turned 26 on Tuesday, off waivers from San Diego in November. Last season, De Paula was a starter for the Padres’ Double-A affiliate in San Antonio, going 4-6 with a 3.86 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 starts.
“Good arm, good breaking ball, pounding the strike zone both sides,” Bochy said. “We didn’t know a lot about him coming from San Diego, but he’s really opened up some eyes here.”
• Bochy said second baseman Marco Scutaro could make his spring debut Sunday or Monday, “but that might be pushing it.” The Giants are bringing Scutaro along slowly following his injury-riddled 2013 season. Bochy said Scutaro hasn’t had any setbacks and has “been able to increase his baseball activities.”