The questions about Matt Cain’s spot in the Giants rotation found some resolution Friday. The Giants put the struggling right-hander on the disabled list, clearing the way for Chris Heston to return from the minors and take Cain’s next start on Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cain, who had an 8.03 ERA in five August starts, was placed on the DL with right elbow nerve irritation. Cain said he underwent an MRI on Wednesday and a cortisone shot, and that the MRI showed no structural damage. He said he experienced an “achy feeling” in the elbow after his last start and that it affected his ability to keep a consistent arm slot.
The Giants had sent Heston down to Triple A to get some rest before September, and the 10-day option rule meant Heston wouldn’t have been eligible to return Sunday unless he replaced another injured Giants pitcher. Manager Bruce Bochy said the Giants had hoped to give Heston a longer break, but the right-hander has thrown regular bullpen sessions and is “fully prepared for this start.”
After all his injury issues of the past year, Cain said it was “really nice” to have a clean MRI. He said he still hopes to contribute for the Giants down the stretch, and that he’s open to doing so in whatever role the Giants ask. Bochy said he would wait until Cain is near returning to consider whether to use him as a starter or reliever.
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“If they need me in the pen, if they need me to do whatever, whatever we’ve got to do to get into the postseason, I’m up for it,” Cain said.
The Giants also on Friday chose not to activate outfielder Angel Pagan from the disabled list, instead extending Pagan’s rehab assignment for a few more days even though Pagan is healthy. The reason: Had they activated Pagan and optioned out another player, that player would not have been able to return for 10 days. With rosters expanding on Sept. 1, Pagan can stay on rehab for four more days and then join the team Tuesday in Los Angeles.
“I think it could serve him well; he only played three games,” Bochy said of Pagan, who is returning from right knee tendinitis. “We just thought he could get a few more at-bats and make sure he’s good to go.”
General manager Bobby Evans said Pagan agreed to extend his rehab and will play with San Jose on Saturday and Sunday, and likely with Triple-A Sacramento on Monday. One way this saves the Giants: The probable move would have been to send Juan Perez back down – only Perez right now is the Giants’ backup infielder.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford is not expected to play this weekend against the Cardinals due to his lingering oblique injury. Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza are already in the starting lineup. So Perez, an outfielder, is the emergency option on the infield. Bochy did say the Giants hope Crawford will be ready to play Monday against the Dodgers and Crawford took ground balls Friday during batting practice.
Bochy also laid out a tentative timetable for Joe Panik. The second baseman is scheduled to take batting practice indoors Saturday, hit on the field Sunday, and potentially start his minor-league rehab assignment on Tuesday. Bochy has pointed to the Giants’ last series of the road trip in Arizona as a possible return date for Panik.
Finally, the update on right-hander Tim Lincecum was that there is no update. Bochy said Lincecum is “just rehabbing right now” and that “he’s not close.” That seems to indicate Lincecum will not be ready to join the Giants when rosters expand Sept. 1, despite some thought he would be back then.
The Giants’ lineup Friday night against Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha:
And the Cardinals’ lineup against Mike Leake: