Today in Scottsdale, the appetizer lasted much longer than the main course. After Barry Bonds faced the media for nearly 30 minutes and was the focus for most in attendance during the 45 minutes or so that he spent on the field during batting practice, Matt Cain took about an hour or so to retire the Cubs in order for the first five innings of a Monday afternoon Spring Training game the Giants would eventually lose 3-2.
Cain wasn’t just perfect, he struck out seven and made loud contact on a single to left field. He threw 59 pitches, 38 for strikes, and the Cubs only hit three fly balls to the outfield (one by Cain’s former battery mate, Eli Whiteside).
“I threw good pitches when I was ahead in the count, which is always nice. There’s times when you get good counts and you’re not able to finish guys and today we were able to do that,” said Cain, who has allowed just one hit in two Spring Training starts.
Toss in Cain’s eight innings so far, and the top four pitchers in the rotation have combined for 23 scoreless innings (27 if you include Madison Bumgarner’s four innings against the Futures squad yesterday). Whether or not the starts we’ve seen from Cain, Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum will translate to success when the games count is anybody’s guess, but they sure seem energized.
“It’s been something that I think we all just kind of felt, even when we came into Fanfest. We knew that we didn’t do what we needed to do last year. You can tell that the guys, they’re just motivated about it. We don’t want that to happen again. It’s early, and it is Spring, but it’s nice to get going,” said Cain.
Bumgarner wasn’t going against major leaguers yesterday, but he looked nearly unhittable — he actually matched the number of hits he allowed with a single of his own. Cain had one more hit than he gave up against Chicago, a single to left field. He said he was happy to match Bumgarner’s production with the bat, but was in no mood to boast too much.
“Yeah, (Bumgarner) was bragging about his hit. I just got lucky and (Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija) threw one into my swing,” said Cain.
Cain on Bonds
The motivated hurlers are working on becoming better hitters this Spring, and Cain was asked whether a certain ex-player-turned-part-time-instructor could help.
“I saw Rich today, maybe I’ll ask him,” Cain joked. “Or Randy, I’ll ask Randy.”
Rich Aurilia and Randy Winn are familiar faces around Giants camp, but Cain had some advice for teammates on how to get the most out of his former teammate, Barry Bonds.
“Definitely try to go up and chat with him. See if you can pick his brain about whatever. It’s probably easier for the guys who knew him, or he knows you, just to go up to him first and talk to him. He’s a huge figure in baseball. It is a little nerve-wracking, a little intimidating at first. But he’s very open to talk to guys,” said Cain, who took advantage of Bonds’ insight during road trips.
“I thought that he was really good about talking to guys. That benefitted me a lot. I don’t know if maybe guys just didn’t want to, but I ended up sitting in front of him on the plane. It was helpful to chat with him every once in a while. Plenty of good conversations we had.”
Bonds’ presence probably sparked a lot of conversations between teammates this morning. With two World Series titles and the presence of Kensuke Tanaka last year, the Giants are no strangers to media crowds that dwarf what most teams see in March. But unless you’ve lived through it, it’s pretty hard to prepare for the Bonds circus. Cain laughed about it after the game, since he and Tim Lincecum are the only Giants to have played with Bonds for a full season.
“It became a zoo like normal. Just a bunch of cameras. If you want to get TV time, just go near him,” he said.
And if you don’t go near Bonds?
“Then you know you’re not going to get on TV.”
— If you want to read about Bonds’ press conference but don’t feel like obsessing over his court case, BALCO or the Hall of Fame, check out what I wrote earlier today. It’s about Bonds following in the footsteps of his late father, and how Bobby and Willie Mays “challenged” Bonds “a lot.” I promise, no moralizing. Every national baseball writer in the country was here (along with Pedro Gomez, of course), so I’m sure we’ll get plenty of columns about Bonds trying to clean up his image and all that.
— Nate Schierholtz and Eli Whiteside both went 0-for-3, but Jonathan Sanchez came in and retired the side in the ninth for his second save of the Spring.
— Lefty David Huff, who came over in a trade with the Yankees, had his first outing today. He threw a wild pitch and allowed two singles and a run in one inning.
— Brandon Crawford made an uncharacteristic error, as his throw to second took Tony Abreu off the bag. Abreu followed with an off balance throw that sailed into the Giants dugout, giving the Giants two errors on the same play.
— Pablo Sandoval is now hitting .381 after going 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. Sandoval now has seven RBIs; no one else on the team has more than four.