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Matt Cain and the Giants: What’s left in the tank?

DENVER — Here is a simple premise: A 33-year-old healthy pitcher who can throw a 90-mph fastball and mix in at least two secondary pitches can succeed as a major-league starter if he also has good command. Which leads to this admittedly premature and provocative question: What if this really isn’t Cain’s final year with the Giants? What if they bring him back in 2018 even though 2017 is the final season of a six-year, $127.5 million contract that turned into a boondoggle because of his arm health. Two good starts is too small a sample and might not even buy him his next turn, which would be against the Dodgers on Monday at AT&T Park. Manager Bruce Bochy said last week he and pitching coach Dave Righetti have mapped the rotation through the end of the first half, and Bochy has dropped hints that Ty Blach could be moved in, perhaps so the Giants could throw three left-handed pitchers at an L.A. team that flails against them. The Giants’ willingness Tuesday to designate catcher Tim Federowicz and keep optionable lefty Steven Okert in the bullpen is a sign they might transition Blach to the rotation. [...] Blach and Tyler Beede seem poised to join this rotation, if not now, certainly by 2018, rendering Cain superfluous. If Cain’s starts against the Rockies and Royals prove to be more of who he is 2017, the idea of his return in 2018 is not so farfetched, although it would have been after he was 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA during a supposedly healthy 2016. Tim Lincecum’s final contract, at two years, $35 million exemplified this line of thinking, although the rotation was far more barren when that deal happened (and the end result should be more of a cautionary tale than a precedent). The Giants could decline Cain’s option and try to re-sign him at a lower price. Given his dedication to an organization that paid him handsomely for four unproductive years, he might feel an obligation. “I think he was outstanding, really very good,” acting manager Ron Wotus said. Cain four-hit the Royals over seven innings by doing what he consistently had failed to accomplish since his return from two elbow issues, the ability to mix his pitches and move them around the plate to keep hitters off gearing up for the kill. In spring training, Cain admitted that in 2016, when he supposedly was healthy, his arm still was not right. Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Article by By Henry Schulman (c) San Francisco Giants RSS Feed - Read full story here.