Bochy names Cain as Opening Day starter
Righty garners first season-opening start following dominant '12
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Almost a year after signing a six-year, $127.5 million contract extension, Matt Cain will receive a bonus.
Cain will start San Francisco's April 1 regular-season opener at Los Angeles, marking the first time he has received this honor in eight Major League campaigns. Giants manager Bruce Bochy made the assignment official Monday, though Cain had long been speculated as the choice to begin the club's World Series title defense.
Cain has gained considerable experience with high-profile appearances.
The right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.10 ERA in eight postseason starts, allowing no earned runs in 21 1/3 innings in three 2010 outings before winning the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series clinchers and starting the Game 4 World Series finale in 2012. He started and received the decision in the NL's All-Star Game victory last July 10 in Kansas City. And he pitched a perfect game against Houston last June 13 at AT&T Park.
Cain acknowledged that season openers generate a special kind of anticipation. He experienced a representative sampling of Opening Day hoopla when he started the Giants' home opener on April 7, 2008. Cain yielded five runs (four earned) and seven hits while walking five in 4 1/3 innings in an 8-4 loss to the San Diego Padres and Greg Maddux.
"There's a lot of buildup to it. There's a lot going on," said Cain, who agreed to his contract extension last April 2. "Sometimes you almost have to think of it as a normal start. But it's not. ... You definitely are a little more amped up about it. You're going out there to start the first game of the season. It's always a huge honor to be able to have that."
Cain earned the Opening Day distinction on the heels of his best all-around season. His 2012 effort featured numerous career bests, including his record and winning percentage (16-5, .762), ERA (2.79), strikeouts (193), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.78) and WHIP (1.04). Cain and Angels right-hander Jered Weaver are the only two Major League starters to record a 1.10 WHIP or lower in each of the last three seasons.
Cain, who will oppose Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day, owns a 4-8 record with a 3.41 ERA in 23 career starts against Los Angeles. But that's somewhat deceiving. Cain is 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA in his last nine encounters with the Dodgers since losing his first eight decisions against them. And he's 2-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 11 lifetime appearance at Dodger Stadium.
Cain will inherit the duty performed by two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who started the Giants' previous four season openers. Barry Zito got the call in 2007-08. Bochy said that he would have felt comfortable giving either of them the ball again on Opening Day -- as well as Madison Bumgarner, who matched Cain in wins last year (16-11), or Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco's leading postseason winner last October (3-0).
"Every one of them can be an Opening Day guy," said Bochy, who has yet to name the sequence of the rest of the rotation. "I'm not just saying it to say it. That's how we feel about all five starters we have. ... That's why I don't get caught up in the number that they're throwing in, as far as rotation. Because I don't look at any of them as a No. 4 or 5 guy. I guess that's a compliment to how good they are."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.