SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the second consecutive spring, Matt Cain got a rude welcome to the mound at Scottsdale Stadium.
Cain had to throw his glove up during live batting practice Monday to avoid getting hit by Pablo Sandoval's line drive. During a similar session a year ago, Cain took a hard-hit comebacker by Hector Sanchez off his calf.
The season that followed worked out pretty well for the right-hander: Cain received a wealthy contract extension at the end of the spring, threw a perfect game in June, started the All-Star game in July and took the ball for a World Series clincher in October.
On Monday, as a result of his career year and many strong ones before that, Cain was named the Giants' opening day starter on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 1.
"He sets the bar," general manager Brian Sabean said. "He's so consistent from start to start, whether he's got shutout stuff or not."
Cain's consistency led to a career-high 16 wins and a 2.79 ERA, his lowest mark in a full season. But it is another number that most impressed Sabean. Counting the postseason, Cain threw 2491/3 innings. He conceded that he was tired by the time he faced the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series but said it was a "normal tired."
"It's tired because it's tired," he said. "It's not like anything is overly tired. There's nothing to think about it. It's the normal end-of-the-year tired."
Even a worn-down Cain was plenty effective in October. He started in must-win situations against the Cincinnati Reds (Game 5) and the St. Louis Cardinals (Game 7). The Giants won both, along with Cain's final start of the season, Game 4 of the World Series.
Cain, 28, said he came into camp this year fresh and is as fit as ever, even with a $112 million contract extension furnishing his bank accounts.
"You go about it the same way," Cain said. "You try to listen to your body. If it feels good, you just try to keep going through it and you try not to overdo anything. I don't really worry about (all the innings). Sometimes I think everybody else puts more of an emphasis on it.
"We're trained to go out here and do our job and pitch as much as we can."
Few have done that better in recent years than Cain, and after several close calls in his eight seasons, he is finally starting on opening day. The decision ends Tim Lincecum's four-year run as the opening day starter, a streak that started after two season openers for Barry Zito.
"Sometimes you have to almost think of it as a normal start, but it's not," he said. "You're getting the first one. You definitely are a little more amped up about it."